Ocean’s lesson

We lost River about a month and a bit ago. I didn’t post about it because, at first, it was simply too painful. Then, I didn’t want to post because this blog is about positive things. Now, finally, I think I have turned a corner.

And it’s all thanks to Ocean.

I came home from the vets that day, wrung out and still crying. Saying goodbye to River was awful, just god-awful. It tore my heart into pieces and I cried inconsolably for hours at the vets. I couldn’t see past my pain.

I opened the back door to let Ocean in mentally preparing myself for her reaction to the loss.

Ocean bounced into the house like a spring lamb. She bounced as if she had springs on her feet. She pounced on her toy and proceeded to throw it in the air, bouncing around the furniture with sheer joy.

I couldn’t believe it. Didn’t she miss her brother? Where was her sadness at this terrible situation? Didn’t she care?

Ocean cares. There is no doubt in her soft eyes or her gentle acts towards us that she loves us completely and unconditionally. She adores us and she loved River. But she also lives in the present, not the past. And that was something I had to learn from her.

Homemade Hummus

I love hummus and, lately I’ve been craving it like crazy. Now, normally, we buy it at Costco and we’re very happy with it. Like everything you purchase there, it comes in massive quantities and it tastes great. But just the other day, I thought about trying to make it at home. Would it taste any better?

I used this recipe from Oh She Glows because that woman’s recipes are flawless, culinary art. But I omitted the red peppers. And I got this:

I should add that I doubled the ingredients to make this much hummus.

It was sublime. Really, really amazing. Good enough to eat on its own. And I made enough to last a week.

In reality, this container is pretty large.

Yum! Hummus.

One last thing, if you are thinking of trying this, you do need a blender to get it mixed well. And, if you do try it, let me know how it went!

A cooking experiment

I had never tried it, but Ajvar was a sauce that was highly recommended. When I looked at the ingredient list and saw how small it was, I was intrigued. How could you make something so good with so few ingredients? Then, I went on line and saw how easy the recipe was and I thought, ‘I have to try it’. So I did.

These are all the ingredients required.

I have to warn you, gentle reader, that I am, at best, an okay cook. I can follow a recipe but that’s about it. I had no idea how this was going to turn out.

This is the first step. Chop everything up and put it into the oven.
A little heat sure does change things.

After this, the instructions say you have to put the roasted veggies into a bowl and cover them with a plastic. The idea is that the steam will make them easier to peel. Like I said, that’s the idea. The reality was a little different.

I did what the recipe called for. Into a bowl they went with a plastic top.

I had a heck of a time trying to part those peppers from their skins. I used nails, curses and a knife and it was a still a long and arduous process. Maybe this is a sauce better enjoyed bought than home-made.

This is the veggies without their skins.

Then, it’s the easy part. Add vinegar, salt, olive oil, pepper and blend.

Blended.

And then put in a container.

Voila!

So, how was it? I have never tasted the real thing so I can’t tell you if mine was awesome or not. I can say that the resulting sauce was mild and certainly appealing but it didn’t blow my mind. I wonder if it’s because I was expecting too much or because we had just finished eating sushi and the mixture didn’t work.

I don’t know if I put too much eggplant and that made the taste too bland and the colour too orange. I suspect that might be the case. If I had to do it again, I would recommend less eggplant (some say you can skip it altogether but I was following that recipe as if my life depended on it). Still, it’s a vegan dish and super famous, so there must be a reason.

If you have tried ajvar before or have experimented in the kitchen, give me a shout. I’d love to hear what you think of this famous sauce.

More doodles

I finally finished that mask. I have to admit the best part was choosing the colours and having fun with them. I have no idea of the symbolism or meaning behind the masks. I made mine up and it was exclusively an art exercise.

Here below, you’ll see the picture as it evolved.

I was staring at that mask wondering what to draw next and this is what I came up with. Brace yourself.

Hm. A cow. I know. What was I thinking? I’ll sit on it and rethink it because I think the proportions are all wrong and those basic lines are the most important ones. Still, I though it was pretty funny. A cow. Hee.

Reviews, reviews

I got myself to the local bookstore the other day and got some books and well, my lovely hubby didn’t hear me for a couple of days but I loved every minute of it. And here, in no particular order, are my two cents on these books.

The best man by Kristan Higgins

The Best Man: Amazon.ca: Higgins, Kristan: Books

The best man is one of those books I just love to sit and enjoy. It has a love story, funny characters and a family that I love spending time with. It’s a wonderful read and one of the reasons I love Kristan Higgins.

Our heroine is Faith Holland, who was left at the altar and is coming back home a little wiser and older. Home might not be completely ready for her and there are obstacles on Faith’s way as she makes a place for herself. Faith is hardworking, kind and really easy to like. It’s not hard to root for her as we learn about her past and see her help out family and friends.

Our hero is Levi Cooper who is part of Faith’s past and has his own story and reasons for what he did. It’s delightful to not only get to know him but to reveal his personality and see the why’s behind his choices. It makes the final ending so much richer.

This is a book I would recommend to any Kristan Higgins fan, definitely to anyone who likes romance and to those who like family stories with a bit of humour added in. Kristan Higgins is one of the greats. She’s a fantastic writer and she treats the reader with respect. Things happen logically, organically and smoothly so that we travel with the heroine to the end barely noticing the pages turn. This one is a great read.

Always the last to know by Kristan Higgins

Always the Last to Know: Amazon.ca: Higgins, Kristan: Books

Always the last to know is a slightly different book for Kristan Higgins. There is, of course, a fantastic family that we get to know and there are amazing characters in the story but this isn’t her usual romantic tale. This is more of a work of fiction.

The book tells the story of a family that has maintained untold and unacknowledged lies for years when suddenly the father, John, has a stroke. The tragedy forces everyone to face aspects of their lives and themselves that they have carefully avoided for years. The two daughters, Sadie and Juliet have to come to terms with who they are and what they are doing with their lives but they are not the only ones who change. Their mother, Barb finally starts doing some changing of her own and faces things she has avoided for years.

There is a love story here and it’s a beautiful love story, but it’s not the central focus of the book. That’s why I said this is a different book for Kristan Higgins. Still, the usual things that make her so amazing are still there. The characters are real, complete and rich. The plot is compelling and engrossing. The ending makes sense and came naturally. And it was a beautiful story.

Though slightly different than her usual books, this one is a definite must read for Kristan Higgins fans. It’s also a great read for any fiction fan and for those who would simply be interested in reading a great book. With Kristan Higgins, you simply can’t go wrong.

After sundown by Linda Howard and Linda Jones

After Sundown: A Novel : Howard, Linda, Jones, Linda: Amazon.ca: Books

After sundown checked a lot of boxes for me. It was written by Linda Howard (one of my absolute favourite authors), it was romance, it had great characters and it had a great premise. It tells the story of what happens to a little town after there is a catastrophic solar storm that wipes out all electricity in the planet. I loved that premise. I was in from the very beginning.

Sela is our heroine and she’s just wonderful. I love that she’s shy and has a lot of trouble speaking up for herself, I love that she ran her own business and I loved how kind she was. Sela ends up being a reluctant leader in the little community where she lives and making sure everyone has food, shelter and the necessities of life, keep her busy and me, engrossed in the tale.

Ben is our hero and he’s tough as nails. I loved him because he was such a loner that he kept everyone at bay with a gruff grunt, until he met a little puppy who won him over. Aw! Puppy. I love stories that involve animals.

This is one that I will definitely read over and over. A delicious story, wonderful characters, a love story and a premise that kept me hooked, it was a great find and a wonderful read. I would highly recommend this book to any romance readers, dystopian readers and Linda Howard fans.

The woman left behind by Linda Howard

The Woman Left Behind (GO-Team, #2) by Linda Howard

I had eyed this book a while back but then Covid hit and bookstores shut down. So, it’s been on my radar for a while. I finally got my little paws on it this week and read it in under three hours. It was worth every minute I waited for it.

The woman left behind tells the story of Jina who’s a tech person working for a paramilitary organization. All is well with Jina, who loves her job until the forces that be decide she has to change jobs and she’s going to do her tech stuff while on the field. That means that Jina has to go with the elite teams who drop down in unusual places and do remote, dangerous missions.

Suddenly, poor Jina has to do training akin to the Marine Corps one. She has to learn to run for miles, jump out of a plane, shoot guns, or lose her job. I would simply lose my job, let’s be honest. But Jina isn’t a quitter and she sticks it out. Along the way, she impresses herself and the team she’s assigned to.

The early training mishaps and personality conflicts from the tough team guys with Jina are hilarious. I loved every word. She gives as good as she gets, though and is always ready with a smart come back that had me cheering her own from the start.

This book is simply delicious. Filled with fast-paced action and tough as nails guys, this is a fish-out-of-water, funny story that had be riveted to every word. Forget the ‘saggy’ middle, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to keep reading. It was that good.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes romance, action, or humour. Definitely one that will show the reader why Linda Howard is one of the greats, this book is not to be missed. I’m so glad I finally got my hands on it.

Review: I’ll be your blue sky by Marisa de los Santos

This was a book that was recommended to me by a friend. I wanted a book about family and she recommended this one. She said, with a little wink, that it was about family and had a ‘mystery’ to it.

I loved the premise of the book. Just as she is about to get married, Clare Hobbes meets someone who gives her the courage to follow her heart and not get married. Her name is Edith and the book is told from the perspective of both women.

Marisa de los Santos is definitely a story teller. I could see it in the way she caught my eye at the start and refused to let me close the book. But there is more than just compelling writing to her talent. She’s almost poetic. The descriptions of places, things and people blend and combine to add to the overall plot. Homes, people and colours become almost characters in the book and contribute to the overall story.

Clare does have a very difficult decision to make and, like all difficult decisions, it has consequences for the people in her life. For her, it means an almost start-over. She slowly starts to search for who she is. The search takes a bit of a life of its own and she ends up making discoveries about Edith along the way.

Edith not only helps Clare make a very difficult decision, she also leaves her a house when she dies. It’s in this house that Clare starts to discover a story that takes her back to Edith’s past and what happened years ago.

Along the way, we get to know Zack, and understand why Clare loves and fears him. We also get to know Dev and understand why he’s Clare’s best friend. We also get to know Edith and why she did what she did for Clare.

I’ll be your blue sky is a story about a family and the secrets and choices that make people who they are. It’s told one little piece at a time, like crumbs leading to a treasure. Ms de los Santos does a great job of weaving the past and present together so that they create a beautiful tapestry of the story.

I would highly recommend this book for readers who, like me, would like to enjoy a lovely story on a summer afternoon. It’s a great read about a great set of characters. I would also recommend it for those who do love a mystery because there is one here, like my friend promised.

I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos

Review: Now that you mention it by Kristan Higgins

I love Kristan Higgins. She’s so easy to like because she’s a really great author but let me tell you why. First, her writing is easy and flowing; never heavy or hard to follow. Second, her characters are quirky and really easy to like and finally, she’s funny. I love an author that can make me laugh.

Now that you mention it‘ is one of those books I picked up completely on a whim and couldn’t put down. Three hours later, I was done and sad that it was over. It was that good.

The book tells the story of Nora Stuart. She’s a doctor specialist whose life suddenly changes in the blink of an eye and she finds herself back home facing a hilarious list of quirky characters. For Nora, home is a place full of memories, people who remember the worst of her and weather that wrecks her wild hair. It’s a tiny island that lives off its tourist season and gossip the rest of the year. It’s a tough place to return to when you have a past. And Nora has a past.

It was so easy to like Nora because she was just so nice. People are mean to her but she just turns on the charm and gives them a smile. She does that over and over, almost to the point that it was annoying because some of those people were pretty nasty to her. But Norah doesn’t get angry or gets upset and there is a reason why.

Nora is afraid of confrontation. And, without revealing too much of her story so not to destroy the book, there’s a reason for her fear. A very good reason. So, though I wanted her to kick someone where the sun doesn’t shine, I could understand very well why she, of all people, would choose to turn the ‘other cheek’ and smile instead.

Nora’s story is funny, quirky and full of characters that I wanted to get to know better. She befriends her niece, finds a piece of herself in the island home she had avoided for years and discovers the story of her family. Along the way, she kindly heals people. Plus, did I forget to mention the fact that she has a dog? Boomer, her adorable doggie is another huge reason in my book for liking Nora.

Though technically it might be considered romance, ‘Now that you mention it’ is the story of a grown woman discovering where she belongs. It is an easy read, giving the reader more than a few laughs along the way. And it’s one I would highly recommend for mostly any reader that enjoys either fiction, romance, women lit or a funny story.

Now That You Mention It: Amazon.ca: Higgins, Kristan: Books

Doodling

I recently saw a Venetian mask and was fascinated by it. It was just so beautiful. So, I had to draw one. Here are a couple of them, just in case you wonder what they look like.

Vetasac Men's Venetian Masquerade Masks Halloween Mardi Gras Party  Carnivals Mask XP010 (Black): Amazon.ca: Clothing & Accessories
35,888 Venetian Mask Photos - Free & Royalty-Free Stock Photos from  Dreamstime

Aren’t they beautiful? I just found them incredible.

So, to draw one, I started by trying to draw a face…and that meant I had to figure out how to do that. I might never have taken art per say but I can use google with the best of them and I know there are specific ratios to a face. One search later and I came up with this.

Sort of looks like a mask…

Then I started colouring…and got this.

So, that’s where I am right now…it’s still a work in progress but the colours are super fun to do.

3 things to consider before you move to the country

So, you want the peace and tranquility, the privacy that comes with living in the country, do you? Before you put up the For Sale sign, check this out. Here are three things I wish someone had told us before we sold and moved out to the boonies.

1. A Well.

If you’re out in the country, you will need a well and not all wells are the same. They can be dug or drilled and, though there are tons of reasons for one or the other, the bottom line is that you want a drilled well. Otherwise, you’ll get soup instead of water.

But that’s not all you’ll need. Unfortunately, having a well doesn’t guarantee having potable water. You might get amazing, clear, bacteria-free water, but odds are you’ll need to do something to your water before you can drink it. It all depends on what’s under the ground where you dig and, though some people go around with sticks to find water, it’s basically random luck.

We had a well and got basically mud instead of water. So, along with the well, we had to have a sediment remover, an iron-blaster (to take out the iron from the water or it will ruin your clothes and pipes) and a UV light to remove all bacteria. The entire system cost about 5K Canadian. For the first year, we tried all sorts of other cost-efficient methods and only ended up with yellow-stained clothes and dirty water. If I had known what I know now, I would have installed the system at the very beginning and saved myself the aggravation.

2. A generator

You need a generator in the country. First of all, a generator is a machine that gives your house electricity when the power is out (Before we moved to the country, I didn’t know what they were…city girl!). There are different types, of course, but you want the one that runs on gas so that it’s guaranteed to work and won’t stop.

There are different strengths in generators. Some are so puny they can only power a bird house and others power hospitals. How much power you’ll need is up to you and what your needs are in your home but the bare minimum is one that keeps the following running: The heater – in winter, that’s a must in Canada or the pipes will freeze and destroy your house; the fridge and freezer in the summer – or you’ll be out of food and the sub pump – or your basement will get flooded faster than you can say gah!. You might also want one to keep the pump running that sucks water from your well or you’ll have no water while the power is out. And, finally, you might want want your kitchen to work so you can cook.

The reason why it’s a must is because when the power goes out, Hydro workers will always start fixing the power for the major cities first, then move to the smaller towns, then to the tiny towns and finally to those living in remote locations. Being last on that list means that you have to wait not hours but days every time the power goes out. Since climate change is making that a reality in both summer and winter, you need to have a back up plan or you’ll end up living at your local Tim Hortons Cafe.

3. A septic tank

Again, I had no idea what a septic tank was before we moved to the country. And, once we got one, I had no idea how to take care of one or what we could or could not throw down the drain. Adjusting to it was a steep learning curve for a city slicker like myself. It involved a lot of online searching and asking those who had lived with one for years.

A septic tank is a tank that is situated in the ground near your country home and will act as a sewer by containing all the things you throw down the drain. It does a little more than just contain things because it lets water seep out and has bacteria to deal with the biodegradable material that ends up there. This being said, septic tanks still need to be emptied every 5 years or so–depending on the type, size and number of people in the house.

The thing about septic tanks is that they can act up and that is really, really bad news. You can end up dealing with everything from foul smells to a back up of sewage. To avoid those ghastly situations, you want to keep your septic tank happy and working well. That means you have to watch what you throw down the drain and you have to add good bacteria to your tank from time to time.

It also means you have to watch the chemicals you use; like bleach. In the country, you simply can’t use bleach. It not only keeps your whites white, it also kills all the good bacteria in your septic tank. So, no matter how yellow those sheets get, keep the bleach at the store.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you cannot throw anything down the drain that is not biodegradable. That includes everything from feminine products to left over paint from your adventure as an artist. Even left overs have to be composted and not thrown down the drain.

Finally, you can’t use too much water or your septic tank will have a fit. That means, if you are running laundry, you can’t turn on the dishwasher or have a shower. You have to watch how many showers you have and emptying or filling a bathtub is something that has to be planned ahead of time.

That’s it, those are the top three big things I never knew and I wish I had known before we moved out to the country. I know they might sound dire but all the require is a little adjustment. After a couple of months, working with them becomes automatic and there are amazing bonuses to living in the country that you just can’t have in a city. The peace and quiet, the animals you see, the serenity and the beautiful trees, there are things in the country that make all the hassles with wells, septics and generators worth it.

So make a cup of tea, sit on your porch knowing there isn’t a soul around and just watch the clouds go by. Life in the country has no parallel.

Me? Oh, yeah, we live in the city now.