Thursday, February 23, 2012

Visiting Celebrity

After watching Max Keeping on TV for the past 40 years, I finally got to see him in person this week. Though he has retired from the news desk at CJOH, he has continued to act as the station's ambassador and still makes a good many public appearances.  On this occasion he came to talk to a seniors group in my area, though he arrived close to an hour later than expected.  He did phone to say he was running 20 minutes late, but then he got lost and couldn't find the village where the event was to take place.  Mind you, he's always had a driver until recently, so though he got around to a lot of places, he didn't have to pay particular attention to how to find his way.

All week I wondered what the subject of his talk would be.  Actually, he didn't have a subject, and you could tell the talk was not preplanned.  He came in and apologized for being late, then told us what he had done so far that day, and why it was he arrived later than expected.   He wasn't making excuses, just telling the story.  He then proceeded to tell us what a typical day in his life was like. That led to how he came to be parenting a teenage boy at this stage of life. Then Max told us a bit about CJOH and the people there.  There were a few cute stories about things like how they did the first live broadcasts from railway stations across the area by hooking up to the fibre optics that ran beneath the railway lines, and how poor J.J. Clarke almost drowned in the Saint Lawrence River during a weather forecast in Brockville.  That's not funny, but the way Max told it, we couldn't help but laugh. 

Max touched on his upbringing on The Rock and how, in the boonies, it's necessary for everyone to pull together as a community to look after everyone else. This is why it seems so natural for him to always be involved in so many charities. He's helped raise over 100 million dollars so far, and has even established a charity in his own name, to help out those who would normally fall through the cracks. 

He was finished his talk, and was asked if he would stay for refreshments. He said he had spotted the goodies at the back of the room and had not grown to this size (patting his belly) by turning down desserts.  I'm not at all sure he got any though, as people kept trying to talk to him.  In fact they managed to keep him at the front of the room for several more minutes answering questions. He wears rings on every finger and it took a few minutes just to explain what each of them were. The best one was like an old fashioned TV set, with a diamond embedded on the screen. 

Newfoundlanders are known to be great story tellers, and Max Keeping is no exception.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

As some of you may recall, last fall I was looking for a bread maker at WalMart, not so much because I needed one, but because they were offering one at a sale price I just couldn't resist.  Well, I never found the advertised item (see Luring the Public) but my search must have convinced my hubby I really wanted a bread machine. He managed to get a WalMart employee he knows to track this item down for me, and gave it to me as a Christmas gift. He insists he got it for the sale price, but I'm not so sure.

Well, that was Christmas and this is February and yesterday I finally made my first loaf of bread in that contraption.  This model has various modes, so the manual gives one sample recipe for each mode.  Each of them required powdered milk, which is not something I normally have in the house. I waited until I could go to the bulk store, to get enough for just one or two loaves, and was all set to create a treat for the man last week. Then I discovered that the yeast I had was not the right kind. I had to wait until this past weekend to pick that up, and by then he was so sick he was off his food. 

Finally, yesterday, I decided it was time to test this machine out.  As I was reading the manual I discovered the flour in Canada is different from the flour in the States. Ours is made from harder wheat and therefore has more gluten.  While the Americans have to use bread flour, our all purpose flour works just fine.  As none of the recipes in the book interested me, and I knew I'd want to experiment over time, I went looking for a good Canadian bread machine cookbook.  I found one at but I currently have a credit slip for, where the same book is only available second hand, but at the same price as a new one in Canada.  Nope. For the same money, I'd want the new one. Since I don't get to use my credit slip, I'll wait until I get to a bookstore so I don't have to pay shipping either.

Next I decided to check out some recipes online.  I found a good page related to Canadian bread machines and decided I'd start with the raisin bread. That would be a nice treat.

I dug out the machine, and after trying to figure out where I could place it, without it bubbling the paint on my cupboards, I carefully measured ingredients into the bread pan in the order given, as instructed. I wasn't sure when to add the cinnamon and other spices I wanted in my raisin bread, but by looking at the other recipes in the manual, I figured they went in before the flour. The online recipe nicely tells me not to add more than 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, as it inhibits the yeast action. 

Fruit, apparently, gets added when the kneading is almost finished.  But how am I supposed to know when that is?  Hmmmm.  So I watched the action through the window and when the dough formed into a ball and was getting tossed around nicely,  I opened the lid and sprinkled the raisins in.  They seemed to gather on the outside of the ball and I figured I did it wrong.  Later, when looking through the manual once again, I found out that the machine would beep at the 30 minute mark, and that's when I should have added the raisins.  Oh, and did I mention that I sprinkled the yeast over the top instead of making the indent on top of the flour where you are supposed to place it?

By that time I figured this first loaf was doomed.

But hey, it turned out not too bad.  Some of the raisins got chopped up, but I'll know better next time.  The bread could be cut amazingly thinly for fresh eating.  By the time we got to towards the middle of the loaf (it was a treat, after all!) we found the bread a bit moist,  so then it was sliced nice and thick for toast.  I added more cinnamon and sugar on top of the buttered toast, which improved it, I'm sure.

So, while the first loaf was not a screaming success, it was at least edible. And since we ate so much of it in one night, I guess it got some sort of passing grade.

Now, if I could just get the paddle out of the pan.  It's been soaking in water for a while now, since the manual says that might help.  Water and flour do make glue.  Hopefully more hot water will soften it up enough to get the parts separated for the next experiment.

If you have a favorite bread machine recipe, I'd be happy to hear from you.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Sitting Duck for Health Problems

Until Ontario Hydro changed it's billing system to time of day usage, I routinely baked and did laundry on alternating days as well as doing all my usual household chores. Now it costs twice as much to do any of these things during daylight hours so I now spend a lot more time sitting, doing things that don't take as much electricity, like sorting and filing and reading and painting.  Or I go somewhere else so I'm not using any electricity here, but usually where I go, I end up sitting too.

I know that we must keep active in order to stay healthy and it's always been recommended that we get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.  But recently I read that prolonged sitting is as bad for us as smoking as it increases our risks of diabetes, heart disease and a number of other health problems.  Apparently getting that 30 minutes of exercise doesn't really help if you spend the rest of the day sitting. The article suggested we all should spend more time on our feet, even while talking on the phone or doing other chores we would normally sit down for.  That prompted me to try going back to my old routine. I spent most of the day in the kitchen yesterday, making a pot of home made soup, and some fresh pizza dough for a chicken pizza.  There's enough of both left over for tonight, so at least I won't have to use all that energy two days in a row.  Electrical energy, that is. I still have to find a way to keep from sitting too much today.

Until I read this article, I had never really thought about it before, but really, Ontario Hydro's new pricing system is not good for our health. I know I'm not the only one that has become more idle during the daylight hours.  Seniors on a fixed income are especially at risk if they too are idling away the electrically expensive hours. Our bodies are not designed for long periods of sitting, and thinking about that, and the older people I know, the ones that are always on the move are not only more healthy, they don't seem to be aging as fast. 

I walk at least 10 blocks for my mail every day but the local streets have been an icy mess, so there have been more days than usual that I have felt housebound this winter. I certainly feel that it's aging me and I know I'll have to work to get my stamina back up when spring comes, if I want to enjoy my hobby of geocaching this year.  In the meantime, I'm going to try harder just not to sit so much.  That likely means I'll have to turn  the computer off more often, as I certainly spent entirely too much time sitting in this chair.  Maybe I'll go clean out some closets instead.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

For the Record

For those of you who don't already know, I own and operate a karate club. I'm not the instructor, but I do most of everything else involved in running a business. 

The club is now 27 years old, and once in a while I'm still blown away by someone who refuses to allow their child to join the class, no matter how much the kid really wants to come.  The reason is that the parent thinks karate is too violent. If they would just come in and watch a class before passing that judgement, they would see that it is not.  Hockey is violent.  Apparently soccer is too, though I'm still wondering how that happened.  Karate, on the other hand, teaches you  to recognize a situation before it gets out of hand, and to get yourself out of there.  And, of course, it teaches you how to do just enough to escape just in case you didn't leave fast enough.  One could go so far as to say that karate teaches that the first rule of self defense is to run.  It certainly teaches you to avoid violence if at all possible. 

I have seen, over the years, that karate teaches self-confidence, self-control and self-discipline. I have seen kids go from being painfully shy to starring in high school musicals. I have witnessed, time and again, how the kids from the karate class consistently win at the annual science fairs and speech contests.  From time to time I hear of fights that break out at the local school, but it's never the karate kids that are involved in them. They know better. 

If you are one of these people who has this preconceived notion that karate, or any other martial art, is violent, I suggest you take yourself to the nearest class, and ask if you can watch.  If the instructor doesn't let you watch, perhaps that's not a place where you would want to leave your kids anyway.  Find another dojo. But please, don't paint the whole martial arts concept with a single brush. Especially one that doesn't even have a basis in reality.  Violent?  I don't think so!