Category Archives: Personal Life

Let Me Answer Your Questions About Canada for Canada Day

Happy Canada Day!

Most of my readers do not live in Canada, so I thought it might be fun to answer any and all questions you have about my country today.

Do you want Canadian reading suggestions?

What parts of Canadian history were taught in your country, if any? Is there anything about it that you wish you knew more about?

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in a country that has a publicly funded healthcare system for everyone?

Will you be travelling here in the near future and wonder which landmarks a local would recommend visiting the most?

Do you want to know what should and should not be included in a proper poutine?

Have you ever met a really friendly Canadian in your home country and wondered if I know them?

When is the appropriate time to include the term “eh” in a sentence? Do you know?

Are you thinking about immigrating here yourself?

I’m full of answers if you’re full of questions!

Update on Autumn Goals

Last autumn I blogged about four goals I wanted to accomplish. Originally, I was planning to revisit it in the winter, but it turned out I needed more time than I originally thought for a wide variety of reasons.

So much has happened in my life since last year. I’ve finally had the chance to sit down and write a proper update for all of you.

For anyone who hasn’t read that post yet, these were the goals I set then:

 

 – Spend one hour a week lifting weights. 

 – Meditate for 20 minutes a day.

 – Join new social groups.

– Write my second sci-fi novel. 

  So how did I do? Let’s go through the original goals one by one.

Spend One Hour a Week Lifting Weights.

Progress: Accomplished.

While I did need to take a few temporary breaks from weightlifting for medical reasons, I have been lifting weights for an hour a week as often as I could. I count this as a success!

For those of you who haven’t met me in real life, know that I’m a short, petite woman. People have often assumed that this means I’m not physically strong. There have been a few times over the last nine months when folks were surprised when I didn’t need help lifting something up or carrying it.

I do appreciate friendly offers of assistance. With that being said, there is something amusing about seeing the way people react when they realize that I’m stronger than I look. Their eyes grow wide for a split second, and they don’t know what to say next.

This definitely wasn’t my original reasons for getting into weightlifting, but the feeling of accomplishment and independence that comes from being able to rely on yourself to lift heavy stuff is a real perk of it.

 Meditate for 20 Minutes a Day.

Progress: Modified but accomplished.

Sitting meditation was a good idea during some of the medical stuff I dealt last year and this year. Walking meditation was more helpful at other times.

I have not been keeping strict tabs on how often I meditate, but I am doing it much more regularly and for longer periods of time these days. The only caveat to this is that much of it involves me going for a walk and drinking in my surroundings instead of sitting perfectly still every single time.

There’s something about the act of walking that makes it much easier for me to acknowledge and then release my thoughts as they bubble up.

 Join New Social Groups.

Progress: Accomplished and still ongoing.

Based on everything else that happened in my life over the past year, I’m proud of myself for working on this goal as much as I did.

I have checked out new social groups since last September and had a good time getting a feel for who they are and what they’re about.

There are other groups I still want to visit, so this goal is something I will continue to pursue in the future.

I believe in in taking your time when getting to know any group. Not every organization will be a good fit for everyone, but it’s also not always possible to know immediately if you should keep attending or find a different social outlet.

So I will continue to dip my toes into various meetings and events to see what I think of them.

  Write My Second Sci-fi Novel.

Progress: Ongoing but looking good.

Why is it so easy to knock out a 1,000 word blog post but so much more time consuming to write a novel? I mean, other than the fact that novels are generally at least 70,000 words long and sometimes much lengthier than that. Ha!

My second sci-fi novel is a work in progress. I did not mention the subject matter of it in last autumn’s post and will continue to keep most of it under wraps until I’m further along in the process. It’s been my experience that writing is easier when I don’t reveal too much ahead of time.

Let’s just say that it’s set somewhere other than Earth. If you recognize the red planet in this section of the post, you’ll have a clue about the setting.

I love all things connected to NASA and space exploration, and  I want to do as much justice to this story as someone from a non-technical background can do. There is a lot of research involved behind the scenes, so that is why it has taken me much longer than I originally thought it might.

Respond

What goals have you set over the last year or so? How are you doing with them?

The Evolution of My Reading Habits

My reading habits have evolved a lot over the years. In today’s post, I’m going to start with my earliest memories and share some stories about how my interests and habits have changed over time.

Most of these genres are still things I like to read at least occasionally. With that being said, I do not read the older ones as often as I once did.

Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales

“A Fairy Tale” by J. H. F. Bacon

The first genres I ever fell in love with were nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

My uncle had a book of fairy tales that he left behind when he went off to college. I read that collection every time I visited my grandmother’s house, and it made me yearn for more stories about dragons, royalty, and people who were rewarded for the good things they did when they thought no one was paying attention.

The tales in my uncle’s collection were the sorts of things you’d see in a Disney movie. They were missing the dark endings that they’d often originally had.

A few years later, I began stumbling across fairy tales that didn’t always end happily ever after. For example, the original version of “The Little Mermaid” ended with the main character’s death instead of her wedding.

I did go back to preferring the more cheerful spins on these stories after a while, but I appreciated having those glimpses into what had happened to them before they were cleaned up for modern audiences.

30 Books in a Month

As I’ve mentioned here before, I was homeschooled for the first several years of my education. One of the best parts of that experience was being able to read after my lessons were finished. There were times when Wyoming was far too snowy and cold of a place for a child to be wandering around outside in, so I read the entire afternoon and evening away on some of those wintry days.

All of this reading time had an interesting effect on me once I started public school and people who weren’t my parents or siblings began noticing my habits.

My fourth grade teacher once gave us an assignment to read three books a month. We were supposed to turn in little slips of paper with the title and author of what we read to her so she could keep track of them for us.

Reader, I didn’t finish three books that month. I read thirty of them.

Those three slips of paper we’d been given were almost immediately replaced by notes from my mother listing everything else I’d read after I fulfilled the original requirements.

When our teacher announced the number of books each student had read that month a few weeks later, most of my classmates were in the single digits. It was pretty funny to see how they gasped when they realized I’d quietly blown everyone out of the water.

A Passion for Poetry

I no longer remember which genres I read during that thirty-book month, but I do remember the genre I became obsessed with shortly after that: poetry.

My fifth grade teacher did a unit on the many different types of poems out there, and I took to this topic  immediately. A lot of the stuff she had us read reminded me of the nursery rhymes I’d loved a few years earlier.

Shel Silverstein was the first poet I loved, but I quickly moved on to poets who wrote for adult audiences like Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes.

The thought of compressing what could be an entire story into a few short lines impressed me. I was always excited to find poets who could create strong imagery of what they were describing to the audience while using as few words as possible.

There was about a decade there when poetry was regularly part of what I read for fun. For a long period of time after that, I still returned to it regularly when I needed a break from other genres.

I’m slowly losing interest in this genre, and that makes me a little sad. I wish I could find the same thrill in it I did twenty years ago.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

“Martians vs. Thunder Child” by Henrique Alvim Corrêa.

My interest in the science fiction and fantasy genres has always been intertwined with the other things I’ve read. Long before I entered high school they became genres I returned to over and over again.

While I do take breaks from science fiction and fantasy to recharge sometimes, those feelings have remained constant to this day. No other genre has managed to keep me coming back for more for as long or as consistently as these two have.

There is something so interesting about taking a modern trend and extrapolating it to some distant future where robots really do run the world or when climate change has altered our planet so much that future generations can no longer imagine what life was like in a cooler, more stable climate.

I’ve come to prefer hopeful speculative fiction over the darker, apocalyptic stuff, but I think I’ll continue reading some sort of sci-fi or fantasy for many years to come.

Leaning Towards Nonfiction

Over the last decade or so, I’ve found myself gradually becoming more interested in nonfiction than I ever was before. My favourite high school English teacher used to talk about how much she enjoyed reading about things that really happened.

I didn’t understand why she’d say that at the time, but now I relish the opportunity to read books about history, astronomy, archeology, ecology, medicine, the biographies or autobiographies of people who have accomplished all sorts of things, and many other topics.

We live in a world that is filled with more information than any one person can digest in a lifetime. I accept the fact that I can’t learn everything, but I also want to be exposed to as much knowledge as possible in this lifetime.

How have your reading habits evolved over time? If anyone decides to borrow this topic and blog about it, I’ll edit this post to include a link to your response if you’re interested in that.

Edited on May 5 to add Bjørn Larssen’s response.

My Interview at Downright Dystopian

I was recently interviewed about books, blogging, and other bookish things by Krystianna at her blog, Downright Dystopian. Click here to read it.

If any of my followers would like to be one of her future interviewees, this post of hers will give you all of the information you need to sign up for that process. I highly recommend doing so if you’re a bookish person! It’s been a wonderful experience for me so far.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Comfort Foods and Recipes and Whys, Oh My!

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

This week’s topic is “Favourite Comfort Foods & Why (& Recipes),” so of course I just had to play around with the wording of it a little in the title of this post in order to sneak in a reference to The Wizard of Oz. I will now proceed to answer the prompt (mostly) seriously.

Both of my parents grew up in the Mennonite community and have the same general ethnic origins: German and French.

In fact, all of the ancestors we’ve traced so far came from the Alsace-Lorraine area that was sometimes part of Germany and sometimes part of France depending on which century you’re looking at.

If your ancestors ever so much as glanced at that corner of the globe, we are probably third cousins or something.  Ha!

All of the recipes I’m about to share were either printed in the Mennonite Community Cookbook that I’ve attached a photo of to this post or written on the blank pages of that cookbook.

To the best of my knowledge, they are all traditional German-Mennonite dishes for people from that group who live in Midwest portions of the United States.

 

This is what ground cherries look like. Photo credit: Pen Waggener.

Ground Cherry Pie 

If you happen to live in North America, your best best for finding ground cherries would be at your local farmer’s market during the summer or autumn. They’re a tomato-like fruit that’s less sweet than most other fruits. I sure think they taste good in a pie.

My grandmother makes this pie often. I think happy thoughts about her every time I eat it.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup of ground cherries (rinsed off and with their husks removed)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mini tapioca
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • Yellow food colouring (as much as desired)
  • A pie shell

Directions

Begin by boiling the water. Add the rest of the ingredients one at a time, and allow the water to go back up to a boil before adding the next ingredient.

After you’ve added as much food colouring as desired, pour the mixture into a pie shell. Add the top crust (if desired), and then bake your pie at 400 F for 15 minutes. Then turn the temperature down to 350 F and bake for another thirty minutes. It should have a consistency similar to other fruit pies when it’s finished. Serves 6-8.

Kartoffle Kloesse (Potato Dumplings)

I don’t have a picture of this recipe, but it’s something one of my grandmothers used to make. It’s delicious.

Ingredients

  • 6 boiled potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • a little salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Croutons

Directions

Grate 6 boiled potatoes . Add eggs, salt, and flour. Beat this mixture until fluffy. Roll it into balls with 2-3 croutons in the centre of each ball. Dump the balls into gently boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Drain well and serve. A little sour cream on the side of your plate would do wonders with this dish if you’re so inclined.

Photo credit: Windell Oskay.

Soft Pretzels

I strangely couldn’t find any of the photos I’ve taken of my own soft pretzels over the years, so I grabbed one off the Internet. You could even make them in fancy ampersand shapes if you wanted to!

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping

Directions

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1 1/4 cup warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients except the flour.

Add in the flour one cup at a time. You might need as few as three cups of it.

Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two more tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Grease 2 baking sheets.

In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in 4 cups hot water; set aside. When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda-hot water solution and place pretzels on baking sheets. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake in preheated oven until browned, about 8 minutes. Serves 12.

 

 

Bonus Recipe – Dandelion Salad

 I found this recipe in the cookbook mentioned above, and I know have ancestors who ate whatever they could find when food/money was scarce based on certain family legends. To be fair, that hasn’t happened in a few generations so this doesn’t quite count as a comfort meal.  I’d like to try it someday, though! Have any of you ever eaten dandelions or other wild greens?

Salad Ingredients

  • 4 cups chopped dandelion
  • 3 hard-cooked eggs
  • 3 slices bacon

Dressing

  • 1.5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 2 cups milk or water

Directions

Wash and chop dandelions

Cut bacon into pieces and fry until crisp

Remove bacon from drippings

To make dressing, stir together the dry ingredients, add egg, vinegar, and water. Stir until well blended.

Cook dandelions in bacon drippings until thickened and cool slightly.

Pour dressing over dandelions and mix lightly. Garnish with sliced or chopped eggs and the crips bacon. Serves 6.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question. The image below is the list of upcoming prompts for this blog hop.

Spring Worlds I’d Like to Visit

Happy spring to everyone in the northern hemisphere! I’m beyond relieved to see it finally arrive as far as the calendar goes. Here’s hoping Ontario will soon see lots of warm weather and the first little green shoots popping out of the soil as well. In the last couple of years, I’ve written about the… Read More

How Winter Has Changed Over My Lifetime

Lately, I’ve been thinking about climate change and how the expectations of what winter, or any other season, will be like in the average year are changing. The official graphs and charts that show how rapidly the average temperatures are climbing from one decade to the next are obviously quite important, but I think there’s something… Read More