Sunday, September 30, 2012


A week from tomorrow - Monday October 8, 2012 is Thanksgiving here in Canada.

A time for us to gather and give thanks for our family, friends and so many other things in our lives.

For some though, it can be hard to give thanks when there is so much struggle in this world we share.

Weather has hampered crops. Unemployment has severely limited resources and caused untold hardship for many. Disagreements have created distance among families, friends and nations.

Medical issues have altered lives. Then there are those who have lost loved ones. So many people that I know have lost someone they love in recent times. A woman lost her mother unexpectedly. Parents lost a son in a tragic auto accident. An elderly mother lost her daughter. A man lost his favourite aunt. A man lost his best friend of almost 40 years. A teenager lost her father. A woman had to say goodbye to her beloved furry friend and a man said goodbye to his feathered friend.

I could go on but you get the point.

Life circumstances or losing someone that you love makes it difficult to celebrate a time of Thanksgiving.

Regardless of how or when they left us, there is an emptiness that can become even larger as we gather to give thanks.

The loss is very real but the memories of those who have passed on can also help to fill the void they have left behind. The things you shared in common - be it a love of family and friends, an interest or companionship. Even the things you disagreed about can still bring a smile if you allow yourself to be thankful for the times you shared.

This year I will especially be missing my mom. It is almost a year since she passed. I miss her terribly. There are so many times I wish I could call her. But, I am SO thankful for all of the years that she was part of my life and for all she taught me and the rest of our family.

This year, I have much to be thankful for.

Though my health issues can be frustrating and occasionally overwhelming, I am thankful that I can still do so many things on my own.

I am thankful for my physical and emotional independence.

I am thankful that I have a roof over my head, a soft place to lay my head at night, food in my pantry and clean water to drink.

I am thankful that my mom and grandma taught me to cook and bake. And that they taught me to experiment with recipes!

I am thankful for our Canadian health care system.

I am thankful to live in a democratic country with freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

I am thankful for CJNU - a nostalgia radio station that gives it's listeners countless hours of entertainment.

I am thankful for my love of music. It keeps me company, energizes me and comforts my soul.

I am thankful that I inherited my maternal grandfathers gift for putting thoughts and stories into printed words.

I am thankful for my sense of humour! It is an ice breaker, relieves tension and keeps me (somewhat) sane!

I am thankful for technology such as my computer that allows me to connect with friends and family both near and far. It allows me to be creative and stay up to date with what is going on in the world.

I am thankful for my amazing family and friends. They have helped me in so many ways. They have offered their time and resources. Most of all, they have given me unconditional love and support when I most needed it. I really don't know how I would have gotten through the years - and especially this past year or two without them!

I am thankful for the family and friends who check up on me if they haven't heard from me for a few days or can't reach me by phone. It's always nice to know you have been missed!

I am thankful for the random acts of kindness - not just towards me, but towards all citizens. The clerks who remember you and ask how you are or if you need any help. People who offer their seats on the bus, to help someone cross a street or who needs directions or assistance.

I am thankful for the beauty of the four seasons and especially for Autumn: 

It is easy to get so busy or be overwhelmed with our day to day living and responsibilities that we lose sight of how much we truly have in this world.

Life and circumstances can change in a heartbeat.

We need to stop ... take a deep breath ... look around our own little world and take stock of all that we have been given. Not just the material things but also the love, support and friendships of the people in our lives.

We need to tell the people in our lives that they are appreciated and loved. That we are thankful that they are a part of the fabric of our lives.

There is much to be thankful for ... if we only open our hearts and our minds to what surrounds us.

As we move towards Thanksgiving and beyond, my wish for you is that you will also find a true abundance of things to be thankful for and that you will share that abundance with those around you. 

Happy Thanksgiving!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

2012 Fall TV Season

When I was younger, I always looked forward to the beginning of the new TV season. Time for new adventures, intrigue and laughs with my favourite characters. A time to see what was new and if it would become part of my weekly viewing.

Times have certainly changed. There really doesn't seem to be a lot that is new anymore. It seems like almost everything has been done, redone and overdone! Almost everything that does pique my interest gets shuffled around the schedule a few times then cancelled with the networks claiming they couldn't find an audience! Well, perhaps they shouldn't have moved it quite so often!

Gone are the days when shows would build up an audience over a season - or two. Or find it's real audience during summer reruns. The networks want instant results for their investments these days and if they don't get it, well sorry but your gone from the dial!

I loved - make that LOVED NBC's Harry's Law! Kathy Bates and company delivered both drama and humour over its 1 1/2 seasons on air. David E Kelly can create a series like no one else in that it can be interesting, quirky, funny and heartwarming all in the same episode. The last episode brought tears to our eyes as we heard Ms. Bates pay tribute to her exwith the haunting lyrics of "Take Me Home You Silly Girl" - her friends gathered round her. I will truly miss this show and hope that a DVD set of the full series will be released!

Last spring saw the ladies of Wisteria Lane bidding adieu to each other and the audience in Desperate Housewives. I'm really going to miss that show, but on the other hand, I am all in for the second season of ABC's Revenge which will take over the coveted Sunday night time slot! Personally, I can't wait to see what the writers have come up with for this season! Did Victoria survive the plane crash? Is Emily's mother really alive? Is Amanda really carrying Jack's baby? Did Charlotte die as a result of her overdose? So many questions to be answered!

How I Met Your Mother, returns for an eighth season on Monday nights. I've enjoyed this series, but am getting impatient as to who the mother is. If the rumour mill is correct, we may have to wait one more season after this before we know. In the meantime, we get to see the gang through more of life's adventures in love and relationships.

Criminal Minds will be back on Wednesday nights on CBS and Tuesday's on CTV. Paget Brewster (Agent Prentiss) has left the show but the BAU has many new cases to solve. Over on ABC, another of my favourite shows, Body Of Proof was on the renewal bubble last spring and barely made it on as a mid season replacement. Apparently there have been some major cast changes so this may well be the end if it doesn't pick up in the ratings.

Yet another season of Survivor starts on CBS/Global on September 19. Ratings have been slipping in recent years and frankly, I've been getting tired of it over the last few seasons as well. My tolerance for the lying, conniving and backstabbing has grown thin. I tried doing other things while the show was on and just listening - which helped but I found I just didn't care if any of the players won. I tried following Jeff Probst on Twitter which helped a bit until he started to use TOUT to post short videos. For the life of me, I just can't figure out that site and how to work it. Trying to follow the show, Twitter and Tout was exhausting. Now he also has his own talk show that premiered on various stations across the USA and Canada last week. The endless TV promos for the show were REALLY annoying but in reality the show is much better than I expected it to be.

This season the survivors are in the Philippines with the return of 3 former castaways who were all evacuated for medical reasons. The other big news is that Lisa Whelchel who portrayed Blair Warner on the 80's series Facts Of Life is one of the castaways. Apparently she is a huge fan of the show but this could also be considered stunt casting. I doubt she will be the survivor but it may be interesting to see her for at least part of the season.

On the other hand, I always look forward to the adventures on The Amazing Race. What teams will I cheer for or despise? What countries and activities will the teams endure? The Race begins on Sept 30 on CBS and CTV

A major pet peeve about CBS web site content. The Canadian stations that carry Survivor (Global) and Amazing Race (CTV) either aren't allowed or just can't be bothered to carry all the extra videos that CBS puts on their site. Despite being huge hits in many countries, CBS only allows people within the USA to actually view the majority of its video content. We can't view audition tapes, behind the scenes footage, deleted scenes or post show interviews. This is SO NOT FAIR!!!!

As for the new series this year? Well, only a handful are on my watch list at this point.

Partners CBS/CityTV 7:30C Sept 24  
This show is from the creators of Will and Grace - a series I loved! I'd heard there were several similarities to W&G and that didn't impress me, but the extended preview I watched was better than I expected so I will be checking it out! 

Ben And Kate Fox /CityTV 7:30C Sept 25  
Reading the premise of the show, I thought it sounded rather lame. The video preview for this was also better than I expected but I have my doubts that it can endure over time to become a full fledged hit.

The New Normal (NBC/CTV) 
A gay couple decide to have a baby with a surrogate single mom. The characters are an interesting mix of beliefs and opinions on "family" with frank dialogue and scenes. Unlike many comedies, this is not filmed in front of a studio audience nor does it use canned laughter. A refreshing change for this charming and funny show! You can watch the pilot on the CTV website here in Canada and tune in Tuesday nights for the regular episodes.

Elementary CBS/Global 9C Sept 27 
This show is a modern adaptation of Sherlock Holmes including the main character who just happens to be named Sherlock Holmes. He has an uncanny ability at solving crimes and mysteries. Of course the other main character is named Watson (this one isn't named John but rather is known as Joan Watson). The promos for this show have been running ad-nauseam  for weeks. I've taken to hitting mute or changing channels when it comes on.  I love listening to the old Sherlock Holmes radio shows and have read a few of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books. I'll check out the first episode or two but I strongly suspect that the classics will prevail over this rehash any day!

What else do the networks want us to watch? Here is a few:
- Vegas - tells how the town came to be.
- Nashville is about an up and coming singer and an aging star in the country music industry.  
- Revolution is about the citizens of Earth being thrown into a new dark age when there is no more electricity in the world.
- The Neighbors has a family moving into a neighborhood populated by aliens.
- Anger Management - the new offering from bad boy Charlie Sheen.
- The Mindy Project has been getting some great buzz. Think of it as Bridget Jones as a gynecologist. If that appeals to you, you'll probably like it.
- Emily Owens MD is described as Grey's Anatomy meets Gossip Girls.

For full listings of what is available to those of us in Canada, and what is coming midseason (or sooner!) check out TV Guide Canada's Fall Preview.

So aside from a handful of returning shows and a couple of potentially interesting new ones, I don't think I'll be watching nearly as much TV this winter as I used to - unless I find some old classics on the cable channels. Will likely spend most evenings in a comfy chair with my Kindle! 


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Feasting On Tomatoes!

Growing up on the farm, we always had a large garden. When the seed catalogues came in the dead of winter, my parents carefully selected the varieties of each type of produce to ensure the hardiest and most flavourful results. In the spring they would carefully plant the seeds and nurture their growth throughout the growing season. Mom and dad spent countless hours tending to the plants to ensure that they would have a bountiful harvest of produce to help feed the family.

The tomato plants were treated with even more love and care. Dad would start the seeds in small containers and place them under grow lights he set up in the house so that the plants would be strong and healthy by the time it was safe to transfer the plants to the outdoor garden in late May or early June.

Of course, Mother Nature could throw some nasty weather (frost, wind, hail, draught, etc) at the gardens at any time, so the harvest would vary every year - but if we were lucky - there would be more tomatoes than we knew what to do with!

There is NOTHING like the taste of a locally grown, fresh, vine ripened tomato! Store bought tomatoes just don't cut it!

Granted, tomatoes on the vine can be rather tasty and are a suitable alternative in the off season if the price isn't too high. Personally, I won't pay more than $1.50/lb at any time of year for tomatoes on the vine! But, given the option - I'll take a locally grown vine ripened tomato ANY DAY!!

There are countless ways to enjoy tomatoes!

My mom and I used to make at least a couple pots of tomato sauce and bottle it to use for pasta dishes or pizzas. She would can or freeze tomatoes to use for any number of dishes in the winter. If there were enough extra, she also made tomato soup.

Most of all though, we ate the tomatoes fresh! As a side with a main course, in salads and sandwiches - we practically inhaled the luscious red fruit!

I miss those days! I miss being able to walk out to the garden and eat a tomato fresh off the vine!

Luckily for me, I have some wonderful friends who will supply me with a few of the beauties if they can.

When my gal pal and I headed out on our road trip in early August, she brought along a couple of local tomatoes to have with our picnic lunch. One, we cut up and ate as is - with a hint of salt and pepper added. SO GOOD!

The other one, she sent home with me to enjoy. It was a rather large one - one of those that a single slice will pretty much cover the whole slice of bread. It was so big that I was able to make 4 sandwiches with it over the next few days! To keep it fresh, I placed it cut side down in a Rubbermaid container, covered it with the lid and stored it in the fridge. I took it out about an hour or so before I made each sandwich to allow it to adjust to room temp before slicing and eating!

A week or so after that, another good friend gave me a few tomatoes from her garden! Oh my! My taste-buds were heading to Nirvana!

So how do I like my tomato sandwiches? Several ways actually!

The first one of the season is always the basic one. Two slices of fresh whole wheat bread, a bit of Miracle Whip Light on each slice, some fresh ground pepper, a light sprinkle of salt and a thick slice of tomato! A feast for the taste-buds! Toasted bread also works for this, but somehow the fresh bread just makes this even more divine!

After that, I mix it up a bit.

Make the same as above but add some chopped green onion and a bit of lettuce (leaf is preferable). I also like adding a slice of medium cheddar for one of the variations. Toasting the bread first is up to you!

Without question, you have to have the classic BLT - toasted of course! I tend to buy turkey bacon more than the regular bacon, but if you find a really meaty package of bacon then go for it! I just don't like losing at least half of each strip to fat drippings with the traditional stuff!  I've also been known to jazz up a BLT with some chopped green onion and a slice of cheddar cheese!

You gotta have a grilled cheese and tomato! This is one of the few things that I prefer using Cheez Whiz rather than sliced cheddar as it melts and browns better under the broiler. You can also add a bit of chopped green onion to this one to kick it up a bit!

Okay, this next one may seem a bit strange and may even gross out some of you but I SWEAR this is delicious! Toasted peanut butter and tomato! Someone my mom knew, introduced her to this combo back in the 70's! We were all a bit hesitant to try it but we started with just a small piece of tomato on a corner of a slice of toast with peanut butter. Try that first. If you like it - and most people do - then add tomato to the rest of the slice!

If I still have fresh tomatoes to enjoy after indulging in at least a couple of each of the above sandwiches, then I make Bruschetta. This summer, I even started making my own French Bread (I use 50% all purpose flour/50% whole wheat) with the wonderfully versatile recipe from the gals at Mennonite Girls Can Cook


2 medium tomatoes
3 small cloves garlic
2 green onions
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 Tablespoon fresh, finely chopped)
1 teaspoon dried cilantro (or 1 Tablespoon fresh, finely chopped)
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 1 Tablespoon fresh, finely chopped)
fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste
8 slices French bread
extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup grated Mozzarella cheese

Finely chop the tomatoes - if they are overly juicy, remove about 1-2 Tablespoons of the juice. Finely chop two of the garlic cloves, add to the tomatoes. Chop the green onions and add to tomatoes. Add the oregano, cilantro, basil, a dash of freshly ground pepper and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine, cover and let sit for 30 minutes.

Brush the bread with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and toast. Rub the remaining garlic clove on the olive oil side of the toasted bread. Top each slice with tomato mixture (about 1 Tablespoon on each) then sprinkle the Mozzarella on top. Place under preheated broiler and allow the cheese to melt and just start to brown. Serve warm. Makes 2 servings as a lunch or 4 servings as a side to a meal.