Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Preparing to hunker down...

 January 25, 2023

The headline on the Weather Network’s website this past Monday began with: “Winter strikes back at Ontario…” Of course, my first thought was that this could not possibly be good. Next, I did pause a moment to wonder what Ontario could conceivably have done to result in winter wanting to strike back. But then I brushed that useless bit of thinking aside. The way things are going in this province lately, it quite literally could have been anything and everything.

The long and the short of it is that we are expecting (according to the weather network) sixteen and a half inches of the white stuff from this morning, (Wednesday), through next Tuesday. I of course informed my beloved of this impending doom on Monday shortly after I discovered it and in response he scoffed, and asked, “did you check the 14 day forecast? That one will really scare you!”

I admitted I had not, and after a respectable amount of time had passed so that I did not give off an air of alarm, I did just that. Oh, goody, we get not quite the same amount of the white stuff all over again in the seven days after this week, but it shows us down into the sub-zero temperatures, again! So as you read this, dear friends, the Ashbury household is getting ready to receive more than two feet of snow, and to be shivering in their timbers for several days.

As luck would have it, one of the things that was on the calendar for two days from now—Friday—was grocery shopping. We’re still trying to figure out our new shopping schedule, and yes, this is actually another recalculation yet again. We adjusted for Covid. Then we adjusted for inflation, which is to say, we stretched our trips out to every two weeks, from weekly in an attempt to make things last longer. David and I are already eating much smaller portions than we did even a year ago. The every-two-week pattern of shopping did help some, and that was before we factored in being alert for “sales”. Our belief in this household is that a sale is only a good deal if it’s something we would have bought anyway.

Recently, however, David has been finding it increasingly difficult to lug in a lot of items in one day. With the end of the good weather and the return of the snow, our method of importing items from car to house has to change. He can’t use his trusty garden wagon in the snow, and I can’t park on the steep hill at the south side of the house. So between us and our daughter, we are working on going to the two area grocery stores a bit more often and buying a fewer number of items each trip. It’s going to be interesting to see how that works out for us over the next week or so.

Provided, of course, on whether we are able to go out on Friday, or if we’ll be snowed in.

Modern living certainly is complicated. I don’t mind that so much, so long as my brain is still providing me with the capacity to work things out. Despite all the new hoops that we seem to need to navigate our way over, around, and through, we consider ourselves very lucky.

We’re not rich, but we do manage to get by. And one of the reasons we don’t fret very much anymore is that we’ve redefined downward the number and types of things that we’re willing to fret about. We’re way passed the age where we need to acquire possessions. We didn’t even buy each other Christmas gifts this past year. It just wasn’t important to us to do that, in the larger scheme of things.

We’ve no plans to travel in the near or even medium future, because we’re focused on the here and the now. This is a transitional time for us both. We’re all just exiting the reality of living in a pandemic world and need to learn to adjust to living with Covid-19 as an endemic virus for which we will (likely) get annual shots, just like we do for the flu. I think a couple of years ago I mentioned that possible future for us all. You can’t know anything about viruses without understanding that there are two things they like to do: mutate, and live.

I had believed we had a chance to eradicate it, but that belief was predicated upon my faith that most people, being of good will and sound mind, would follow best practices and get vaccinated, as soon as a vaccine came available. But despite my disappointment that my optimism wasn’t borne out this time, I will still always, if given the choice, bet on the intelligence and goodness of perfect strangers. I truly do believe that there are more good people who will act for the public good than there are evil or even selfish ones.

Optimism, and the feeling of positivity I enjoy while trusting in others can also be their own reward.




Wednesday, January 18, 2023

We began with fries and burgers...

 January 18, 2023

It’s only been a week since we set up my Christmas gift, but we’ve already used our new Ninja Foodie three times! After some discussion, the decision was made that the first thing that should be prepared in the device was French fries.

We don’t eat those often in this house. In the good weather, David will take care of his regular craving for “fries and gravy” by riding his scooter down into the center of town and buying a large order of fries with gravy from a small local restaurant. He puts the package of them in the insulated bag that is strapped to the back of his scooter seat and then brings them home. They’re still very hot when he sits down at the table to eat them. This of course makes him a very happy man.

He and our daughter both love fries. I like them, but don’t crave them as often as they do. But I was looking forward to learning a new, less-fuss and time-consuming way to make them.

Not unexpected, one of the first things we discovered was that there is a learning curve involved when it comes to using our new appliance. Perhaps more of a learning curve for some of us than for others. You see, between my daughter and I, one of us reads directions very carefully and more than once, and one of us, well, not so much.

We decided to make fries last Thursday night. The only problem? We had no fries in the freezer. Daughter said she would bring some home after work, which she did. However, she did not buy them directly on the way home, but in that small time frame just before her final client, which meant when those fries got here, they were no longer frozen.

Some accommodation in the time or temperature or perhaps, both, should have been made accordingly. As a result, the fries cooked up very quickly and were definitely crisp. Maybe a bit crisper that might have been desirable—for me. I’m the only one sitting at that table who does not smother fries with gravy. I prefer a small circle of ketchup for dipping on one side of my plate, and some malt vinegar sprinkled on the fries on the other side. I ended up not eating my full portion, which was huge, but the results were a good first try.

I especially liked the part about not adding any oil.

The next day we went grocery shopping, (and yes, we got another package of fries for the freezer), and while browsing, we saw that they had a ready to heat “thin sliced beef” suitable, according to the package, to make Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches. David salivated the moment he put eyes on that product, and it was on sale, so we bought it. We also got a package of six sausage buns for those dinner sandwiches, buns that looked very fresh.

I knew I had green and red peppers at home as well as onions that I could sauté to go with, so I knew our supper was set. A quick update via text to my daughter, who would not be home for a couple of hours yet resulted in her request for me to take a pack of her “Impossible Burger” out of the freezer. Her plan was to make herself a couple of non-meat burgers for her supper, and to cook them in the Ninja.

This time she read the instructions and set the temperature and timer accordingly. And absolutely loved the results.

Last night was Nanny Tuesday, which means we had our daughter’s two grandchildren here for dinner. She decided to make hamburgers for them—and for us, too. The Ninja is perfect for that, because it will hold 4 burgers at a time, which is all we needed for the meat eaters at the table. She cooked her own veggie burger separately, and again, the appliance worked well. They tasted as good as burgers grilled outdoors. Another plus, there was no smell of fried meat throughout the room that one usually gets from frying hamburgers indoors.

Now we’re on a mission to seek out different meals to make in the Ninja. There will be some new recipes in our future, just in time to fight the winter doldrums.





Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Something new...

 January 11, 2023

The Christmas decorations have been boxed up and stored away for another year. Outside, the snow has melted, and though the temperatures are milder than we have any right to expect in January, the dampness is a constant companion.

My cold has been behaving like a pendulum, and I have resigned myself to taking each day as it comes. I know it will go away, eventually. I’ve already given this thing too much attention and importance. So, I will do what I can, and rest when I must, which is way more than I’m used to.

In the second week of 2023, people are going about their business, trying to decide what their normal is going to be, moving forward. Something that I’ve noticed, though, is that when one is retired from the work-a-day world, one’s concept of a lot of things changes—and that even includes time. (Yes, I’m still writing but I don’t consider that work even if it is). For example, I mostly know what day it is—I’m too honest to say “always” because there have been a couple of days over the last couple of months when I thought it was one day and discovered it wasn’t. Just getting old is all.

My husband and I don’t watch a lot of television these days. We do watch a few programs, though, and some of the ones we enjoy are starting back up, so that gives us something to do in the evenings. We’ve cut back on our “news” consumption, which seems a good idea. There is only so much chaos I can stomach, and I think I reached my limit more than a year ago.

I’ve heard a rumour that the largest growing social “in” group is called “Lying Liars Who Lie”. I don’t find that hard to believe. Lying appears to be the new “thing”. Who could have ever guessed? It’s been more than 60 years, but I can almost feel the sting on my butt that my mother delivered when I lied to her. Ah well, it’s never bothered me to not be a part of any “in” groups. These days, I take great pride in declaring my aversion to those kinds of groups, especially the one I named above.

One of the things my daughter likes to tease me about is what she calls my aversion to change. I have explained it’s not change, per se, that I don’t care for. It’s unnecessary change or, put another way, change for change’s sake. And I think that just recently, I may have made some progress in getting that point across to her.

We had our “family Christmas” this year on January 2nd. Our Sonja works a couple of jobs now, and our Jenny, of course, works in the community and sometimes long hours. Any family meal has to be scheduled to accommodate those two. And, since Jenny has Monday as a regular day off, this year it was the day after New Years that we feasted.

There was a big box under Sonja’s tree, and it was for me from the girls. Friends, I am now the proud owner of a Ninja Foodie! I had been curious about the appliance, and now I have one. A couple of days after that wonderful family dinner, I unpacked my new gift, and immediately understood that it would not go where we’d all thought that it would.

So, after I washed all the removable parts, dried them, and reassembled the thing, I looked around my kitchen and made an executive decision—I changed it up! The space we had cleared for the foodie now hosts our Keurig. Really, where that coffee maker now is makes a lot more sense. Husband even approves because the surface it is on is a bit higher than the one it had been on, and his back now complains less while he fixes a cup of joe.

My daughter was quite impressed that I had unpacked and then rearranged the layout of my kitchen all by myself. Change that she hadn’t even had a part in!

And no, we haven’t used it yet. I continue to read up and familiarize myself with the new addition. I’m looking forward to using it, to learning all the things I can make with it.

As soon as my brain is firing on all, cold-free cylinders. And yes, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.






Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Happy 2023...

 January 4, 2023

I hope you had wonderful Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. Now here we all are, fully living in the new year, having to learn to write 2023. I swear I just got used to writing 2022…. or so it seems. This is the hamster wheel we’re all on, and it’s the same thing every January. And really, one can adapt faster than one thinks possible.

This past week has given us mild temperatures, for the most part. There has been a lot of rain. This time of year, there is only one reason that I can think of not to mind the rain. And that reason is that with rain, at least you don’t have to shovel it. Of course, my days of shoveling snow, as well as its warm-up act, clearing off the car, are long over. But those memories of having done so plenty of times are with me, and they stretch all the way back to my adolescence.

We didn’t get a lot of “snow days” when I was a kid, but we got a few. These were never causes for celebration for me because I was expected to shovel our driveway. I’m not talking about a little eight-to-ten feet long piece of asphalt that leads to a garage, like so many folks have in towns and cities everywhere. The driveway of my life from the time I was about eight was a very long country lane. The thing resembled a high-top boot, complete with a heel—so my mother could drive in, steer to the right at the end, then back up, and drive forward. About 120 feet long in all, this was the safest driveway ever, allowing one to never have to back out onto a busy road.

Good news for any drivers at our house; bad news for the low-on-the-food-chain shoveler, which was me.

There was one time that I do recall fondly, though. I was about twelve or thirteen and had decided to get to the job early. I’d started to shovel at the road, working my way in, and after a couple of hours, I maybe had about five feet done. Then I looked up and our neighbor, the man who owned the quarry, came down the road in his big, beautiful loader. He stopped and confirmed with me how my mother liked the driveway plowed, then told me to stand aside, and proceeded to accomplish the feat in about five minutes and, of course, free of charge. He then left me and drove to the next neighbor’s house. In an hour or two, he’d cleared every driveway on our road.

That was the sweetest gift I’d been given to that point in my life.

As I look out the window this morning, all I see are grey skies and wet everything. But not a bit of snow. I do feel bad for the kids who received snow boards or toboggans for Christmas and have this week off school. Also, I’m sorry for those folks who plow snow in the winter to help make ends meet.

It’s just one more bit of proof that nothing in life is either all good, or all bad.

Not even this cold that has a good strong grip on me.

It began before Christmas, seemingly out of nowhere. It just grabbed a hold of me and so far, is not wanting to let go. A friend asked me if I’d gotten my flu shot, and of course, I replied that I had, indeed. I am completely up to date with all vaccinations—Covid, flu, and even the one for pneumococcal pneumonia.

This isn’t covid, or the flu, or anything else but a good old-fashioned cold. I have brewed my “hot lemon” concoction and have been sipping it (water + lemon + orange; simmer briefly, and serve with honey and yes, at least a bit of Splenda because, well, lemon). I have been resting and doing nothing. The resting instead of writing is mostly because my brain doesn’t want to think about writing, so I rest it, too. And I read—some of the books in my Lusty, Texas collection so at least I can have my brain in the general area of where it needs to be for when this cold ends and I can get back to work.

David has a cold, too. But his isn’t as bad as mine, this time. We’re kind of taking care of each other at the moment, which is our usual M.O. In the aftermath of that bone-in ham we had at Christmas and even with this cold, a week ago I plopped that bone into a pot of water, and the next day made his favorite 13 bean soup. He loves comfort food with his colds.

And, in return, he’s been fetching and carrying for me: coffee, water, and hot lemon, and anything else I need.

My cold is moving on, slowly, and I’ve decided my best bet is to try and see if there are a few scraps of patience I can hang onto until it’s completely gone. In the meantime, we spend our days side-by-side on our sofa/recliner, wearing puppies on top of our blankets, while I read from my now one-year-old, and he reads his brand-new iPad that the girls bought him for Christmas.

Comfy, with matching blankets and warm beverages and good books to read. Heaven, if you ask me—even if I do need a lot of tissues.




Wednesday, December 28, 2022


 December 28, 2022

For those who celebrate, I hope that your Christmas or Hanukkah were all you’d hoped they would be. When an event comes but once a year, it’s wonderful if it turns out, also, to be very special.

Anticipating the week leading up to Christmas, there had been a few places we had originally planned to go and a couple of people who we’d hoped to see. However, as the storm was first forecast and as it approached, and since we were warned of its inevitability and nearly unprecedented size, we decided to just stay home, instead. Seeing loved ones face to face isn’t worth a risk of life and limb.

I can’t tell you all just how much I wish others had done the same. Two things can be true at the same time. I feel compassion for those who’ve been stranded—either because of the difficulties of air travel, or because of attempting to travel by road. But I also wonder what they were thinking, since, as I said, it was well publicized that a monster winter storm was imminent. Getting stranded was a completely unnecessary hardship.

Our Christmas Day here was a very relaxed and quiet day, just the three of us here. Our daughter made breakfast. There were two kinds of bacon, eggs, breakfast potatoes and toast. The food was very tasty. Supper was my job, and since we’d decided well ahead on the bill of fare, it was a very simple but good meal. We enjoyed bone-in ham, candied yams, Brussels Sprouts (our favorite veggie), and coleslaw. I bought some of the groceries on the Friday before Christmas, and because our daughter really loves red cabbage coleslaw, that was what we had.

Recently, our daughter has reintroduced chicken and ham into her diet. So far, it’s working for her. She doesn’t eat large quantities of those meats, but she eats them with no negative side effects.

There was an addendum to putting some slices of ham into the oven to heat them, for our Christmas supper. Most of what we didn’t eat for supper, had been designated for another purpose. I put that cut up left over ham through the meat processor, added a few sweet pickles which were also chopped in the processor, added some mayo to the mix and voila: the family favorite, ham and pickle, which is salad that is eaten as a sandwich filler. When daughter and I decided on the menu, she was most excited about the ham and pickle since she hadn’t had any for a couple of years.

Made on Monday, (and a healthy portion of it, at that), the meat spread was but a memory by the end of the day, yesterday. I’m not complaining. I’d rather have something eaten up that quickly than left to go bad in the fridge.

Our family Christmas supper will be on next Monday, this year, January 2nd. There’s usually a challenge coordinating since both our daughter and our “second daughter” have busy schedules. This is also the reason I didn’t even attempt to serve a turkey on the 25th. Sonja makes the best turkey, period. And while I pride myself on being a very good cook, I have no problem bowing to someone who can do something better than I can. It will be a fun evening, and of course a new rendition of the game we always play when we get together for these events: left, right and center. (If you’re curious, they sell it at Amazon).

Yes, next Monday will be in the brand-new shiny year of 2023. Time does march on, whether we wish it to, or not. That’s the way of the world. But I’ve lived long enough to understand that few things in life are either all bad, or all good. So while time marching onwards means we part with some things, it also means that we encounter some new things.

I sincerely wish that y’all have enough of the new, and the nice, and the happy, and the spice in the year to come to put a smile on your face and a song in your heart.




Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Tis the season...

 December 21, 2022

Well, here we are again, and so soon, too! Christmas is only 3 sleeps away, as the kids used to say. Just about everyone I speak to in recent days has had one question in common that they ask me, during the course of our conversations: “are you ready for Christmas?” I’m not certain if they are asking that out of genuine curiosity, or if they are hoping that I will say no, and they will then sigh, and think, “oh good, another one just like me.”

My answer to the question, am I ready, is always no. I’m never ready for Christmas. I do, every year, comment on this fact. And every year, it’s true. Every year, the inevitability and approach of Christmas, the nearness of it when I look up mid-December and realize it’s almost here, seems to be a shock.

You see, Christmas to me is a time to stop the busyness of life, a time to sit, be calm, and reflect. To sink deep into contemplation. To once more draw near to the wonder and the magic and the majesty of human hope and aspirations.

When I say those words to myself, a lovely picture forms in my imagination. I’m in a room with a large front window; sitting in a comfy chair, with a fresh cup of coffee beside me, a blanket on my lap, and a fire burning close by. It’s night, I have the indoor lights off, and outside I can see thanks to the soft lighting from somewhere that the snow is falling—gently, softly, with the occasional puff of a breeze that sends the snowflakes dancing. There may be soft music playing, but aside from the crackle of the fire, it’s the only sound.

So, am I longing for Christmas? Yes, I am so there. But am I ready for it? No…but I have hope.

When I was a child, my pleasure when it came to Christmas was, of course, from anticipating all the wonderful things I might get from “Santa”. I can tell you that there were two days a year that I got gifts – my birthday, and Christmas. That was normal, for most folks I believe in those days. I would be given shoes, or clothing as the need arose throughout the year. And I did get a whole 25 cents a week allowance. That was a lot! Why, every couple of weeks or so, my daddy would take me to Kresge’s, in Dundas, and I could, from my allowance, buy myself a toy from amongst the riches on display there.

My two favorites were a “flying saucer”, and solo ping-pong. The first consisted of a “launch pad” a ring, a string, and a plastic circle, with spokes. The string wrapped around the launch pad; the circle sat atop it; and when you held the toy in one hand and pulled the string fast in the other, the circle twirled hard, then would be launched to go…. wherever. The second toy was a wooden paddle, which had an elastic band type piece securely affixed to it. At the end of the band was a small rubber ball. You could play ping-pong all by yourself!

With that monthly influx of new toys, I never felt deprived—or bored!

These days, as a seasoned adult, my pleasure in Christmas comes from giving. We keep a few dollars on hand, and every kettle we pass in this season, gets some. We have, in the past, taken great pleasure in shopping for toys, lots of toys, and then giving them to the first responders on duty each Christmas season outside the grocery stores. And of course, we give gifts to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And to special friends.

I also used to love to make cookies with my own children, and then with my granddaughter. This year, being so much older and sadly a little less patient, I made the cookies on my own and then presented two of my great-grandchildren with them, along with some icing and all manner of sprinkles for them to decorate at will. My daughter and second daughter supervised, and I enjoyed watching them.

I also sent them home with some cookie dough ready to roll out, so they could make cookies at home with their mother.

There is one more thing that I look forward to, every Christmas, and it’s my absolute favorite: and that is the time I get to spend with my loved ones. Yes, there is a shadow of sadness present, as this is the time of year when I most keenly miss those no loner with us: my parents and siblings, my middle son, and his first-born daughter. But life, at it’s best, is neither all good nor all bad. Life at its best is bitter-sweet.

My husband and I wish you boundless joy this Christmas—with lots of hugs and mugs with your nearest and dearest.




Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Solemn commemoration....

 December 14, 2022

Ten years ago today, tragedy came to live in a community called Newtown, Connecticut.

It was a beautiful, late fall day. The sun was shining, and the temperature had been forecast to hit 43 degrees. The day began, I imagine, much as any day begins. Parents roused sleepy children early, getting them up and dressed, and then sitting down to breakfast. There would have been the usual sounds of family life, sounds that would have run the gamut from laughter to tears, as most every day does. Could be someone couldn’t find their shoes, while someone else had to change their socks, so that they matched. Teeth had to be brushed—and hair, too. Finally, what was likely a familiar if hectic daily rush out the door as the parents would have taken their children to school and then headed on to work themselves.

Some families would have had their Christmas trees up already, and some would have had that on the calendar for the next day, which in 2012 was Saturday.

And then, shortly after 9:35am, at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the unthinkable happened.

I remember at the time just sitting in shock, and tears, as I watched the news coverage unfold. We’ve had a few horrible mass shootings here in Canada, but nothing like this. Nothing had ever been like this.

And I remember thinking, surely now something will be done. There are so many things that can be done to help to mitigate the kind of violence we saw that day. And really, none of those things involve anyone coming in black helicopters to seize anybody’s weapons.

Now, here we are 10 years later, and although slowly, the movement for common sense gun control legislation has been gathering activists and action. More than 500 pieces of legislation on the state and local level have been enacted. In June the first significant piece of federal legislation in more than 30 years was passed thanks to bipartisan cooperation.

I have come to the realization that we’ll likely never see a revolutionary big law as I expected in the days and then weeks and months following the massacre, Sandy Hook. I was expecting a big and sudden change and felt very disappointed there was none, but really, I should have known better. After all, the turtle did win the race against the hare for a reason.

I take comfort in the knowledge that the coalition of groups and activists working together toward a goal of universal gun safety legislation is now larger and more powerful than the NRA. They are active in every state, I believe. There is hope, and as long as there is some progress, there also needs to be patience.

The Safer Communities Act was signed into law this past summer. It was a beginning on the federal level, but not the end. I choose to believe it was not the end, because those 20 wee children and 6 educators should never be forgotten.

I am going to spend some of today remembering the lives lost ten years ago. I’ll likely shed more than a few tears, but that’s as it should be. And I am going take time to pray something more will be done than that one piece of anti-gun violence (not anti-gun) legislation that was passed.