Sunday, March 31, 2013

This Past Winter Was NOT My Fault!

We've had a bitterly cold and extremely snowy winter. Yes, we here in Winterpeg and on the Canadian prairies are pretty much used to cold snowy winters, but this year was just a bit colder and snowier than most.

This past winter was also a whole lot colder and snowier than LAST winter which for the most part barely reared its nasty side. Last year, the snow was gone by mid March. The golfers were out on several courses. The restaurant patios were doing a booming business. Daytime highs were hovering around +20C from March 16-18 and reached +23C on March 19! The first day of spring felt nippy at only +13.6C!

Local forecasters have been quick to remind us of last years' highs while broadcasting the frigid details this year, but they usually neglect to add that March 2012 was an anomaly in our weather.

The first day of spring this year, saw an overnight low of -24.3C and a high of -11C. There was also an oh so unwelcome windchill of around -30C or so in the morning and into the afternoon.

The normal for our first day of spring should be about -9C as the low and +2C as the high.

With the exception of skiers and snowboarders, pretty much everyone else has had more than enough of winter and the white stuff! Oh wait, there is that Grandma in Brandon,Manitoba who has been posting videos of her love of winter while wearing a black bathing suit - outdoors!

We, here on the Canadian prairies are not alone in out winter fatigue. Eastern Canada, the Maritimes and many areas of the US Midwest and North East have also had more than their share of winter woes.

Complaints abound. Rather than accept the weather as it comes, many choose to point fingers.

Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a big winter fan. It can be beautiful to look at, but getting around in it can be a royal pain! Spring can be just as challenging and unpredictable but at this point, I want winter gone!


If I had my way, winter and it's remnants would be gone by now! But, anyone who has ever lived along a river or in a flood prone area knows that a slow spring melt is needed.

Who knows what Mother Nature will put out of her weather bag of tricks over the coming weeks!

And yes, I do recall and even admit that I have admonished snowbirds for inciting the wrath of Mother Nature by trying to escape her wintery grasp:
" It is very rare that we don't get one last great winter blast/snowfall from Mother Nature in late March or early April! It usually hits right around the time the last of the Snowbirds (travellers) are returning home from their winter getaways. I have always considered this as Mother Nature's revenge, because they tried to escape winter and that those of us who stay (by choice or circumstance) are just innocent victims."  Spring - March 20 2008

Over the last while there have been those who have suggested that "I" may be to blame for this winter weather this year!

Seriously? Has my own winter escape and haranguing of Mother Nature's weather management caused the proliferation of white stuff and wicked windchills?

Let's examine the facts here:
- Yes, I did leave Winterpeg for a week in January. That is well documented - assuming you have read any of my posts over the last couple months. The fam and I began discussing the trip last September before winter even started! Okay, that may have given Mother Nature extra time to plan a wicked winter.
- It was cold and snowy here long before I left! That is what happens in a normal winter!
- I flew out of Winterpeg on the edge of an incoming blizzard! Okay, maybe Mother Nature was trying to stop me from leaving but she DIDN'T STOP ME or countless others from leaving the winter climes for even a short reprieve!
- Numerous people in Mesa asked if I'd brought the cold weather with me. I reminded them that the temps they were experiencing were cooler than normal before I arrived. It stayed cool until the day I left! Granted, the timing of the warm up may be a bit suspicious!
- Winter temps here were about normal when I returned but they did turn to below normal a few days later! That can't possibly be suspicious - can it?

I'll admit that some points may look slightly incriminating but it is all circumstantial - right?! I don't believe - nor will I take the fall for this wicked winter! Heck, I'm far from the only one who gripes about the weather! That is practically a requirement for even living on the prairies!

So, yes I willingly made a brief escape from winter but the trip was a gift and WHO could or would refuse such a generous offer?  I am not responsible for putting the "winter" in our winter this year! In truth, I am a somewhat vocal, yet single being among the grand Snowbird exodus!

Am I splitting hairs here? Possibly, but if I had that much influence or effect on Mother Nature, we wouldn't have had much of a winter at all!

If I am offered another trip to Mesa in the future, I will make another escape - winter be damned!

I am far from the only one being blamed for this winter though. 

Canadian singer Meaghan Smith has a beautiful song called "It Snowed". Apparently, it may be being played a little too often though as she recently tweeted:
I could add a link to the song, but why take the risk? Google it if you must, but don't blame me or Meghan if It Snows in your area!

Punxsutawney Phil is reportedly being sued! The prosecution claims: "Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that Spring would come early." Though the lawsuit is apparently written in jest. the sentiment is real.

It appears he may have already confessed:
Personally, I've never trusted any of those rodent prognosticators!

So, here we are - the end of March. On March 28, we finally cracked 0C to reach (an almost seasonal) high of +2.3C!

The overabundance of snow is slowly starting to melt. The snowbirds are making their way home. The skiers, snowboarders and other winter enthusiasts are lamenting the end to a great season. The golfers. gardeners, farmers and warmer temperature enthusiasts are chomping at the bit to get out and get on with it.

We will never all agree on the ideal weather conditions and that is part of what makes us living beings so wonderful. Despite all the advances in weather science, we still can't always predict what Mother Nature may have up her sleeve. We just have to learn to accept it and deal with it as best we can with what we have been given.

Here's to you Mother Nature, as always, you are a mainstay of our conversations - for better or for worse! You drive us nuts sometimes but you also keep life interesting and keep us on our toes!

Am I sucking up to her just in case? Yup, can't be too careful these days!

Happy Spring! 


Sunday, March 17, 2013

dn's Lemon Rolls

Spring and Easter are fast approaching. For me, that always means a time to bake something special - and that usually means something with lemon! I wanted to make Lemon Rolls!!

When I was a kid, I recall my mom making Cinnamon Buns/Rolls. They were a lot of extra work but also very delicious! Though I've tried a few times, I still haven't perfected a decent Cinnamon Roll but that is okay as I'm not a huge cinnamon fan. An occasional Cinnamon Roll at a coffee shop or restaurant is fine for me.

There was however, a treat that we occasionally bought in the bakery departments of grocery stores that I have been wanting again for quite a while. Actually, I've looked for them in the stores but haven't seen them in years - so if I wanted to taste this treat again, it was time to experiment.

The frosted rolls we used to buy were sold by the half dozen in a tin foil pan. They were light, soft - sort of a cross between a bread and cake consistency - and the filling was a tangy lemon! They were SO good!

It was time to look for recipes! There were several recipes on line - some were more of a twist on the Swiss Roll with a lemon cake rolled up with a creamy filling. Not what I had in mind. Others, were a more traditional Cinnamon Roll style - but also made the lemon filling from scratch. That was more work than I wanted.

I finally decided to try a recipe from the gals at Mennonite Girls Can Cook! Their Cinnamon Bun Class 101 looked simple enough. I'd just cut the recipe in half, make a couple of slight alterations in the dough and use a lemon filling.

Over the years, I've found that most canned lemon pie filling isn't really that lemony. The filling from a mix makes more than I generally need at any one time. I wasn't up to doing a lemon filling from scratch - way to much work! Luckily, I've found a bulk style lemon pie filling at a local bulk food store that is full of tangy lemon flavour! I've been using it in other recipes over the last year or two and thought it would be perfect for these rolls!

The first time I made these, I took some samples to friends for taste testing. They thought they were some of the best treats they'd ever had! Admittedly, these aren't quite as light or flaky as what I recall from my childhood but I gotta say - these are a might tasty! These are a delicious treat any time of year but especially appropriate for a spring or Easter treat!

Happy Spring and Happy Easter!

dn's Lemon Rolls

1 lemon (zest for dough and juice for the icing)
1 Tablespoon instant/quick rise yeast              
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 large eggs (allow to adjust to room temperature before beginning)                             
2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons white sugar                           
1/2 cup milk, scalded        
3/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup margarine (brick style not soft style in tub)     
1/4 cup cold water  
1 1/4 - 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour        
1 cup lemon pie filling (see notes at end of recipe)
1 1/2 tablespoons margarine
1 cup confectioner's/icing sugar

Combine the yeast with the cup of whole wheat flour.

Wash and dry the lemon. Zest the lemon. A good sized lemon should give about 1 - 1 1/2 Tablespoon of zest if you take it almost to the white pith. Don't worry if it is a bit more or less just add what you get! Add the zest to the yeast/flour mixture and combine. Set aside.

Juice the lemon and set aside for making the icing.

Heat or scald milk and salt, adding butter and stirring to melt. Add cold water to cool slightly. The liquids should be hot but not so hot that you can't hold your pinky in there. Set aside.

In mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar well.

Slowly add very warm liquids to egg mixture, stirring all the time.

Add the flour/yeast/zest combo and mix well with liquids. Add the all purpose flour 1/2 cup at a time, beating with hook attachment or stirring each in while using a wooden spoon or a mixing fork.

Knead for several minutes, until smooth and elastic-like.
Cover lightly with clean tea towel and plastic. Let rise for 60 - 90 minutes. (until double in size)

Loosen along sides to deflate the dough and knead gently just to remove air.

On floured surface, shape dough into rectangular shape with hands. With a rolling pin, roll out to about 12 X 18 inches. Spread evenly with the lemon pie filling.

Roll up jelly roll style, cut into thick slices and place on parchment paper lined pan. You should get 12-15 rolls.

Cover loosely with the tea towel and plastic and rise for 60 minutes. Bake at 350F for 20 - 25 minutes. Place on cooling rack to cool for about 10-15 minutes while you prepare the icing.
Icing / Frosting:
Melt 1 1/2 Tablespoons margarine and mix into 1 cup confectioner's/icing sugar. Combine to a crumb like consistency. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice - 1 teaspoon or so at a time - to desired spreading consistency. If you ice them when completely cooled off, the frosting can be quite thin, if you ice them while warm, the icing should be thicker. About 1 - 1 1/2 Tablespoon or so lemon juice for a thick spread - a bit more for a thinner one. I generally ice mine while still warm.

These are best served fresh and warm. However, I have reheated them - 1 or 2 at a time in the microwave for about 12 seconds. I haven't tried freezing these as they don't last long enough!

You could easily use all white flour or a combination of flours for this recipe. Just note that the more whole wheat or heavier flours you use, that this will slow down the rising process and the lighter consistency of the finished roll.

From start to serving can take about 3 1/2 hours including mixing, rising and baking. I haven't tried using traditional yeast that has to be proofed but I'd imagine you could adapt a traditional cinnamon bun recipe to this by adding the lemon zest to the dough and having more pie filling on hand. Just allow 1 lemon and 1 cup pie filling for every 12-15 buns that the original recipe makes.

The lemon pie filling from a can does not tend to be as lemony tasting as what I have found at a local bulk food store, The boxed mix takes more time/effort and makes more than you will need. Another advantage of the type I buy is that it is delicious spread on loaves, scones, as a cake filling or any number of other dishes. It keeps well in the fridge for several weeks.



Sunday, March 3, 2013

My First Winter Escape! - Part 2

As I said in my last post, the first few days of my winter escape to Mesa were a tad nippy weather wise, so instead of sightseeing, we went shopping! We hit a few stores on Saturday afternoon, but Sunday was a mega shop day!

First up Mesa Market Place Swap Meet. This place is HUGE! There are four incredibly long aisles inside of what could best be described as open sided implement sheds with vendors filling close to 1600 stalls - selling a seemingly endless array of merchandise! Given that it was only about 40F, it was surprising to see just how many shoppers were there - bundled in heavy coats, scarves and toques! Then again, snowbirds want to escape the winter but we are still a hardy bunch of savvy shoppers!

Despite the cold, we were there for about 2 1/2 hours and made it through the first two aisles! I found several items for gifts, souvenirs and items on my personal shopping list!

There were several jewellery vendors, but the knowledge, quality of stones and workmanship varied greatly. It really is a buyer beware situation, but also a lot of fun if you know what to look for! I thoroughly enjoyed talking with one vendor who was quite knowledgeable in the stones - I think she was also a bit surprised at my gem knowledge! I bought two pieces of "Sleeping Beauty Turquoise" set in sterling silver - a pendant and a ring (it was sized while I waited).

And yes, despite the cool temps, I even managed to do a few VERY cold but quick changes in a fitting room of a clothing vendor and bought 3 tops I really liked!
After thawing out with a soup and sandwich lunch at Streets Of New York, we hit several more stores in the afternoon! A very successful outing!

Monday, we also hit the stores - a must for me was to replace my pocket magnifier which I had somehow lost on the trip down. It took a few calls but we found a low vision centre a few miles away and I bought a couple spares! We also hit a couple malls and some box stores. Before heading home, we went grocery shopping at Costco and taste tested our way through the place!

Thursday morning, several of us gals headed to a nearby Rec Park for their weekly swap meet - a fraction the size of the weekend one, but still a lot of fun and some interesting things to see and buy!

I didn't quite spend my duty free limit but I had shopped like I might not get back! My luggage was well within the weight limits going down but JUST under the max on the way home!

Not all of my time was taken up with shopping and sightseeing. I enjoyed home-cooked meals of grilled pork chops, chicken caesar salad, grilled lamb chops (hadn't had lamb since I was a kid and didn't like it then but these were very good!) One night we had a Shrimp in Citrus & Garlic Sauce over Fettuccine that was TO DIE FOR!

Organ Stop Pizza was our supper destination on the Sunday night.
You order your custom pizza (thin crust), load up your plate at the salad bar, then find a seat in the long rows of tables and benches. The show starts, with the lights dimming, the sound of the music beginning and the organ rising up from under the stage. For our show, the opening was "Phantom Of The Opera".  Now, to be honest here, I am not even remotely a fan of organ music so wasn't sure this would be a place I'd enjoy, but I LOVED it! The Wurlitzer Pipe Organ is HUGE and frankly, you have to see this place and hear the incredibly eclectic music that comes out! From classical to pop to musicals and more! The organist even played "Play That Funky Music"! My fave, was "Alley Cat" - a song I'll always remember my big sis playing on the piano when I was little! Everything seems to be animated and the atmosphere is abuzz with enthusiasm for everything! The pizza ain't bad either! I definitely want to go back! 


A side note here, the show we saw, ended with the playing of both the Canadian and US anthems. We found it interesting that Canadians stood for ours and remained standing for the US, whereas everyone stood for the US. A bit sad and disrespectful to not stand for all anthems.

Another night, nine of us went out for Chinese food. The fam and some friends had been to a relatively new restaurant a couple weeks earlier and raved that it was the best they'd ever had! Well, in the short time since they had been there, the place had changed ownership, was under new management and had a new - very limited menu with only about seventy items! Despite all the changes, we decided to stay. The food was good but was only average. I've had better here in Winnipeg! Oh well, it was still a fun evening with fam and friends!

There was nightly happy hour before dinner. I'm not much of a drinker, but when I do imbibe, I generally stick with Vodka and 7 or more recently Bacardi Limon and 7. Not so this time around! I was introduced to a flavoured Vodka from Pinnacle called "Orange Whipped". For my tastes, it was a bit strong to have on the rocks - BUT add some 7 to it and it's like drinking a grown-up Orange Float! YUM!

After dinner dishes were done, we'd have another drink, nibble on bitter-sweet chocolate and play cards. We talked, shared stories and without exception, every single night we got to laughing so hard that we couldn't speak! Tears were flowing! We spent time talking as we did dishes together and went for walks. We truly enjoyed each other's company!

During my visit with the fam, I got to meet a number of their snowbird pals in AZ.  Some are from Canada and some from the States. I've heard the names for years and it was a pleasure to finally meet and spend some time with them - over happy hour, dinner, shopping or just sitting around shooting the breeze!

Throughout my journey, I met several ex Winnipeggers, former Manitobans and numerous winter escapees. Regardless of the connections, it is always refreshing to make easy conversations with fellow travellers. The people who live and work in Arizona were friendly and welcoming!

The week went all to quickly and before I knew it, it was late Thursday aft and time to head to the airport. There were hugs and the tears flowed as we said goodbye. Saying Thank You seemed so inadequate for such a generous gift of the trip and the hospitality! There is no way I will ever be able to repay them for all they have done for me. It was a jam packed week of unforgettable experiences that I will always treasure.

I don't know if or when I'll be headed back to Mesa, but if I am lucky enough to be invited again, I've already started a list of things I'd like to see and do on that trip!