Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Where Have I Been?

Welp, I have been expanding my farm, going to yoga, riding my leased horse, taking care of my home and gardens, losing nearly twenty pounds, socializing with friends and family, teaching art and working on church projects.

Writing has taken a back seat. I have and will probably continue to more frequently update my farm blog as my animals consume so much of my happy time, but I do hope to write more overall, including here.

2016 has been wonderful. My heart is bursting with gratitude. 2017 will have a tough time topping it.

My sweet kids

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Great Lakes Freighters

Living on the south shore of Lake Ontario comes with many benefits. 'Cool lake breezes in the summer, ever changing ice formations in the winter, water fowl year round, and beautiful views every single day. And then there are the sunsets and the view of the Toronto skyline. For those who enjoy water sports such as sailing and water skiing there are many great days available despite the short season, and of course the fishing is world class.

Our house is far enough away from the lake that we can only see it from our upstairs foyer window, but when you live so close you see the lake everyday as you drive around or visit friends with cottages or houses on the lake, and when you eat and drink at the local restaurants that boast lake views. I am also fortunate enough to walk my dogs by the lake. My seven minute drive to school is along the lake shore, and each morning I am treated to a different view complete with different sky and water colors, and birds and waves, sometimes with the moon, sometimes with cool cloud formations, sometimes with dense fog or blowing snow. Now that it is spring, a special lake view treat is noticing the various boats on the water. Some days the fishing boats are far out, some days they are closer to shore, some days a research vessel is in sight, and most days there are freighters to see.

Great Lakes freighters are cool. They travel through the the Great Lakes system from all over the world, carrying all sorts of things. From TEACH, a great resource on all things about the Great Lakes:

The largest ships that visit Great Lakes ports are designed to carry such bulk cargoes as iron ore, coal, stone and grain. Other ships are designed for general cargoes such as machinery, steel and bagged food products. Still others are more specialized as tug and work boats, commercial fishing vessels, tankers, day excursion boats, and railroad car ferries, among others. has lots of cool info, including a photo gallery and an interactive map that shows you exactly what boat is where.

One of our goals is to purchase this adorable little red cottage that is within eye sight of our house. It's still a real cottage: little and crooked and with tons of personality. We would like it for the occasional renter, but also for our own use. 'Parties, quiet sunsets, art lesson location, bird watching and freighter watching. It isn't for sale - yet, anyway - but we are ready.

Here's the freighter that is just north of the Wilson harbor as I write this:

Info from BoatNerd:
Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature -- English RiverBy George Wharton

Overall Dimensions (metric)
Length 404’03” (123.22m)
Beam 60’00” (18.29m)
Depth 36’06” (11.13m)
Capacity 7,450 tons (7.570 tonnes)
Power (diesel) 1,850 bh.p.

Initially constructed as a Seaway shuttle package freighter; this smaller sized motor vessel was built by Collingwood Shipyards Ltd., Collingwood, ON as hull #171. With the keel being laid March 20th, 1961; the vessel was launched September 8th, 1961 as the English River for owners Canadian General Electric Co. Ltd., Montreal, QC and immediately bareboat chartered to Canada Steamship Lines, Montreal who also acted as the vessel’s managers. The package freighter was named after a small community and river in northern Ontario. The English River entered service on October 19th, 1961 and had a designed capacity of 5,200 tons (5,284 tonnes) in a port and starboard hold. The vessel is powered by a single Dutch-built Werkspoor model TMAB-390 8 cylinder 1,850 b.h.p. diesel engine burning marine diesel oil driving a single controllable pitch propeller giving the vessel a rated service speed of 13.8 m.p.h.

The English River spent her early years in the freight trading business she was designed for. Primary routes were between Lake Ontario ports and company terminals along the St. Lawrence River. Cargoes included palletized freight and the odd deck load of vehicles. Canada Steamship Lines assumed direct ownership of the motor vessel in 1963. With better highways and increased competition from the trucking industry; demand for package freighters such as the English River decreased.

Canada Steamship Lines sent the English River to the Port Arthur Shipbuilding Co., Port Arthur, ON (now Thunder Bay) for conversion to a self unloading bulk cement carrier in 1973. The conversion took place over the summer. The conversion included the installation of sloping cargo hold slides with drag line scrappers to move the cement to stern mounted bucket elevators to lift the cargo to a hopper for discharging to shore by air slide equipment. With this conversion, the English River could now carry 7,450 tons (7,570 tonnes) of cement and her mid summer draft of 22’07” (6.88m). The newly converted cement carrier returned to service late in 1973 under charter to Canada Cement Lafarge. At this time, title of the vessel was passed to Laurentide Financial Corp. Ltd., Vancouver, BC with CSL acting as managers.

In 1992, Canada Cement Lafarge took ownership of the vessel. The English River’s current registry shows Lafarge Canada Inc., Montreal, QC as the official owners with Canada Steamship Lines remaining as managers. The vessel’s trade routes are predominately focused on the lower lakes; loading at Bath, ON for ports such as Toronto, Whitefish, and Hamilton, ON; Oswego and Buffalo, NY. Other ports of call could include Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; and Port Stanley, ON.

A safe vessel; the only recent recorded incident occurred in Cleveland in the spring of 1996. The English River got caught crosswise in the current of the Cuyahoga River and backed down into a cement/steel dock causing some damage to both the vessel and dock. The vessel has often been honored in spring by being the first vessel of the season into several lower lake ports and maintains a busy schedule throughout the shipping season.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Our Paella Adventure, Part II

OMG it was fabulous!!!

The seven of us managed to eat all the meat and seafood, with just some rice leftover. The only things we would do differently next time: more chorizo and more lobster tails because they were so extremely yummy. Also, we had to add extra liquid during cooking as the Arborio rice needed more than the recipe's Spanish rice needs. Finally, I would have been braver about getting a nice crispy bottom during the final stages of cooking. All in all it was a blast to make as a family, and it was absolutely delicious.

Abby was an excellent garlic chopper.

Tito's assisted throughout the process.

This chorizo was excellent, but we wanted more.

Chandler crushed the tomatoes. 

Jim cut up the chorizo with a little help from Ol' Grand-Dad.

'De-sanding the clams (does a cornmeal bath really work? I wasn't taking any chances), thawing the peas and washing the tails.
Everything was organized before we began.

Willow was hoping for a shrimp to fall.

3 burners worked out great.


This was Chandler's Instagram photo.

The Paella Paparazzi 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Our Paella Adventure, Part I

So tomorrow we are making Paella.

It all started on our trip to Spain where we were we ate copious amounts of yummy paella, and we took a paella-making class at Vanencia Club Cocino, a cooking school in Valencia where Paella is said to be the best. When you eat a good Paella it makes you close your eyes and say "ummmmmm!" in an embarrassing manner. My favorite from our trip was actually in Granada where Chandler and I sat on the sidewalk outside of a little place on the street where he lived while studying at the university. Spain is notoriously very hot in the summer and we had walked several blocks to get there, but all the little restaurants had misters that would periodically send down glorious clouds of cooling mist.  The Paella was served in a small pan that was positioned over a little flame, keeping it warm. There was nice crusting, or "socarrat", on the bottom, and the flavor was heavenly. We were also served icy cold sangria, and the combination was spectacular. I will never forget the feeling I had there, so happy to be on this adventure with Chandler, and also feeling so proud to think that he had lived on this street and studied here all by himself. I had a mom moment, I'll admit. But I digress - we are really still talking about Paella.

There is a ton of information about Paella online along with many authentic recipes - some of which do not sound appealing based on the ingredients (no thank you on the chunks of fish, no thank you on the chunks of bunny rabbit). There are also a million recipes that are entitled "Paella" but are not made in the traditional way - there should be no "popping it in the oven" at any point in time.

Our goal is to make a relatively authentic Paella using ingredients that we enjoyed eating, and making it in a relatively authentic way.

We must start with a pan large enough to serve a crowd. The pan needs to be wide and shallow, and heavy enough to prevent scorching the rice before it is cooked. Last summer I purchased a pan on Amazon, and it is currently taking up a large amount of space in my mudroom closet. So I could share info about the pan on this post I looked up the actual item on my Amazon account (wow - I have purchased a lot of stuff on Amazon in the past few months!!) and here it is:

Lodge L17SK3 Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet, 17-inch
Sold by: LLC $81.31

Then there was the task of finding a recipe to follow. If I bake, I follow the recipe exactly as it is written because baking is a fairly scientific endeavor. When I cook I enjoy reading many recipes and then creating something using elements of each recipe. With this Paella - knowing that the ingredients would be expensive and a crowd would be observing - I really wanted to find a recipe that I could follow exactly. I searched and searched and searched, and I came across Tyler Florence's version and I think it fits our goal of yummy and fairly authentic. Here is a link to the recipe along with a video (bonus!): The Ultimate Paella

I do plan on changing a couple of things: I am not going to stir the rice into the sofrito as the recipe calls for but rather I am going to add the liquid, heat it, and then sprinkle the rice without stirring, just as we were taught. There's a reason for that and it has to do with the starches. Also the rice we will be using is going to be Arborio, or short-grained Italian rice. It's easier to find than Bomba (short-grained Spanish rice) and based on what I have read will do the trick. Read an interesting article about rice here. Also, I intend to replace some of the water with a little wine and and chicken stock. 

The shopping creds go to my husband Jim. I gave him a copy of the recipe along with the shopping list so that he could refer to the recipe should he have questions about amounts, etc. He loves good food and he loves cooking so he is 100% on board with this Paella Adventure. $130 later we have everything we need including the saffron. Disclaimer: we needed olive oil (extra virgin only, ever) so that bumped up the cost a bit.

Tomorrow I have a long day at church, but when I get home the prepping will begin! I am super excited to roll up my sleeves and CREATE. Chandler and his sweet girlfriend Abby will be my sous chefs, and Chandler will also be taking some photos so hopefully my next post will be all about our successes :)

~ a Geography Lesson, because I am a teacher, after all ~

~ not us nor our pan, but just a cool paella photo! ~

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Dreaming of the Beach

It's been a busy summer and a busier fall. After my wonderful travels with Chandler ended, I got right to working on projects around the house and farm. Then our priest delivered the sad news that she would be leaving us at the end of October, and as one of the Wardens of our church my life became much crazier. School started in September, and church activities were thrown into high gear -- church became more like a second full time job. In addition I had a bit of a health issue that was time consuming and anxiety causing (breast issues, but more about that in another post, maybe), then throw some holidays into the mix and you have a perfect storm for a very hectic several months.

But now it is 2016, my tenure as Warden is over this Sunday, my next boob appointment isn't until an MRI scheduled at the end of June, school is now on auto pilot, the holidays are behind us, and it's time to take some deep breaths and relax. This is a perfect time for some reflection, too.

> I am so blessed by my son and my husband. Both are good men that I am very proud of and both of whom I love dearly.
> I love the home that Jim and I built. It serves the purposes we designed it to serve: as a peaceful daily retreat for us and as a place to host our family and friends.
> Good health is key to everything, but when trouble threatens one must stay positive and maintain a sense of humor (I now have what we call my Frankenboob).
> St. Andrew's is one of the most important parts of my life, and I love my church family - the kookie people and all. This is an exciting year for us as we continue on our mission but also search for a new priest. It's like dating!
> I love nearly all of my students and I love teaching art, but I am looking forward to not working 5 days a week (7 years from now...). I dislike the politics of school, especially now that I am more active in our union as a Building Rep, but I love my work friends. Between my colleagues and my students I laugh a million times a day - and that fun I will miss when I retire.
> My animals continue to be my therapy as they fill me with joy and happiness. They also keep me active and healthy, and I cannot imagine my life without them.
> I have amazing friends and family. They are kind, generous and fun people, and they make me want to be a better person.
> GRATITUDE is our Stewardship theme this year, and Gratitude is what I am filled with.

> Finally, I love snow and winter, and so this mild winter has been a real bummer to me. But ---- I am looking forward to relaxing in Florida during February break, just Jim and I. No Mom, no Chandler, no other couples. Just us, with our toes in the sand, a cocktail in hand, and books and naps and awesome food and sunsets. Marco Island, here we come. 'Found this sweet condo on VRBO, and whenever I feel a little grumpy I just pull up these photos and dream of the sun and the sand, just Jimmy and I.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Valencia & Barcelona

By this point on our tour our group (about 50 of us) really started to bond. There was dancing and laughter and friendships forming. Our tour was designed for families, so most of the adults were my age-ish and most of the kids were Chandler's age-ish. There were a couple of older couples, as well, but all of us (well, except for one grumpy couple) shared a generally positive and cool vibe. We did so many fun activities besides touring: we had a paella making lesson at a cooking school, we had a Flamenco dancing lesson before a fantastic show (I did not take photos that night, sadly), at the bull farm there was a bull-fighting demonstration ... more activities than a normal tour has. As a matter of fact, I was hesitant to sign up for this family version of the tour as I feared being trapped with whiny kids but that was not the case at all - the kids were terrific. The families hailed not only from the across United States but also from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. Once in a while our paths would cross with the non-family version of Trafalgar's Southern Spain tour and they did not appear to be having as much fun!

In southern Spain some people have their homes built into the ground as a way of staying cool. We had the opportunity to tour one of these modest homes and it was lovely. The experience made me think of hobbits, and it also made me feel that my lifestyle was filled with excess.

We spent an afternoon in Peniscola, and it was one of my favorite places. The castle is where the movie El Cid with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren was filmed.

~ our coach: thank GOD for the excellent AC ~

Barcelona was beautiful! I would love to spend more time there.

~ Barcelona has had one-way streets for hundreds of years ~

Montserrat was breathtaking.