The White Cottage

MY DAYS IN RETIREMENT


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This Is The Short and Long Of It.

The days are long, the nights fall away too fast. So there sit hubby and myself as the Summer months decrease without much ado.

We’ve had a few activities of late. The party for my nephew’s 18th birthday was great. As usual the family frivolity was raucous and up-lifting. I, again, had a chance to get caught up with my other sisters, nieces and nephew on their comings and goings. I truly have to admit that at this stage in my life I’m jealous. When someone asks us “So, what’s new with you guys?”, my brain goes to mush to try and think of something exciting we’ve been up to. Alas, we can’t even come close to the others. Their travels, adventures and resulting stories are beyond what Nat and I could ever get up to, being the boring old sods we’ve become. I still enjoy listening and laughing along immensely.

Our one big event this past month came by way of an invitation to one of Nat’s golfing buddies 50th Wedding Anniversary. Nat golfs with the husband three days a week, and we’ve been to dinner with this couple in the past. The wife is Quebec French, speaks English enough for me to understand, but talks a little too fast for Nat. They’re definitely a fun couple and we love their company.

The anniversary party was held at their home in Port Dalhousie with a guest list of close to 100 people – mostly family and friends from Quebec who had travelled for hours on end and would be staying a few nights to enjoy each other. The Anniversary Couple decided not to do any of the work – and who could blame them – so caterers were hired to set everything up – tent, chairs, food, drink and an anniversary cake accompanied by gorgeous cupcakes.

As Nat and I walked towards the back of the house, the French language could be heard emanating around us. We were greeted by our friend and his wife, wished them congratulations and then wandered around to check everything out. Our friend owns and rents out the house next door to him, so there was plenty of space for guests to mix and mingle. We walked around where pockets of French were heard, along with pockets of English along with laughter and screams coming from the children in the swimming pool. They certainly had the perfect day, weather wise, for this whole soiree.

After meeting a few of the family, Nat and I soon found our way to some seating under the tent. Our necks were twisting and turning as we watched the party-goers and family members talk amongst themselves. It wasn’t long after that, a foursome sat down beside us. We introduced ourselves and the conversation started. I, for one, was very relieved one couple was originally from England. To top it off, the husband was from Manchester and a huge Manchester United football fan. I suppose you almost have to be if you’re born there. It’s probably a law, or something.

I’m not a discriminator of the French language and, in fact, am truly sorry I didn’t learn to speak it fluently. Yes, I know, I still can, but my patience has been lost somewhere between hear and the Atlantic Ocean. So having a couple born in Britain sit next to us was somewhat of a relief so Nat and I could have a more fluent conversation. The loud voices around us could, at times, drown out any talking resulting in Nat not being able to hear, especially with his newer hearing aid that (in my opinion) isn’t as good as the last one.

The entire party was lovely, the speeches (as always) a little too long and the food was delicious. Arriving around 3:30 pm and the time now well after 8:00 pm, Nat had to take me home. I was very tired and had pills to take. (Sadly, a routine that can break up a lot of get-togethers for us). It was our first night out in a long while, but was good.

Finally, this past week saw our Landscaper (GreenScapes Niagara) come around with the soil and garden stone for the bottom of the yard. This small project is going to help Nat when he’s mowing the lawn. He won’t have to twist and turn around the edge of the creek with the regular lawn mower, saving him quite a bit of time out in the summer heat. Wood edging now runs east to west across the lawn in a straight line about 10 +/- feet up from the shores of the creek. The area inbetween was filled with a plastic ground cover, lots of dirt and then garden rock.

Nat’s pleased with how the landscaping turned out and will certainly shorten his lawn mowing time. Hopefully, this next Spring we’ll find some large garden pots to plant with plenty of decorative, colourful plants to fill the space. Just spruce the joint up a bit!

With nothing else on our agenda, Nat suggested maybe we take a drive to Port Dover yesterday for a walk-about along with a Fish ‘n Chip lunch. We took the 2-2/2 hour drive using Garmin and with all things “Nat & Twila” the day somehow hits the proverbial rocks and went down the toilet from there.

The drive in was easy enough and when we arrived Nat asked if I wanted to check out the shops. With me, that’s always a given. Not being able to make up my mind, however, we decided to park down by the beach. Somehow I became a bit dazed. My legs were sore from sitting in one position for so long. The sun was beaming down and I was getting a bit hot. I asked Nat if we could do the shops, but by the time I began to walk the distance from the beach to the main street, I was about to collapse. He went back for the car and found a parking spot on Main Street, but then I became very disappointed. There was nothing of interest in any of the shops for me. I could tell Nat was getting a little disappointed. He had suddenly become very quiet. After a bit of a “discussion” on Main Street, we decided to go for lunch, maybe that would quiet things down.

Not knowing where any of the indoor restaurants were, and I had previously done a little research for fish ‘n chip places, I suggested we go to a very popular spot called “Willies” down by the beach. We were a little disappointed upon arrival. This was strictly an outdoor joint. Place your order, find a seat on the patio and watch the world go by. As we checked the menu, Nat found he could have his Perch lunch and I could get some Haddock. We took a seat but once we began to eat, I stated my huge disappointment in the Chips – over-fried, crunchy inside and out – with the fish not as well battered as I had hoped. I could tell from Nat’s face he was thinking the same thing.

We slowly ate in silence. I apologized for ruining his day and his silence said it all. He agreed his day had been ruined. In my defence I had long forgotten how hilly Port Dover is, how this was definitely a beach community with take-away, outdoor eateries and not a whole lot of quaint gift shops. I’m guessing the Bikers on Friday the 13th don’t exactly come for the shopping.

The day only got worse when we began to drive home. We set Garmin to Go Home but what to our surprise it was taking us a completely different way from whence we had come. We were told to turn right onto Haldimand Rte 3 instead of Provincial Rd. 3 throwing us a curve ball that lead to heated discussions about what was going on. I felt like Nat was looking to me for answers and (in my ignorant manner) began to explain what I thought was happening. I told him, in the end, that we could still get to Hwy. 3 once we arrived at Dunnville.  We continued driving in complete silence, arriving at Dunnville a half hour later. More frustration set in as Nat was unsure what to do and where to go. We soon found the road to turn onto to get back onto our beloved Hwy. 3 to home. It was extremely easy to do with sign posts everywhere. The balance of the ride home was in complete silence, but the Garmin situation was giving me an itch I had to scratch.

As Nat drove along, I reached for the GPS and went into the Settings. Long story short, I had soon realized that with the last Garmin Update done on the computer, the whole GPS had returned to its original Default Settings. With one of our trips we had changed the Settings – map display to 3-D, driving route to “Fastest” and not “Quickest” (huge difference), along with a few other minor items. I decided to open my mouth again and tried to explain to Nat what might have happened. I could see his face thinking this whole scenario out, and finally agreed that might have been the reason.

Our Tuesday trip was over – at last!! Arriving home in more silence, total frustration and disappointment we tried to think of what to have for supper and then headed to our recliner chairs. Please God, lights out and let this day be over. With all things “Nat and Twila” the silence continued into Wednesday morning with a little tip-toeing around afraid of who was thinking what, but each were afraid to ask.

 

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The Devil Called – And I Said HELL-O

My posting days have diminished somewhat with the more quiet days Nat and I have been experiencing. My doctor appointments have now become something of the past, except for the once/twice yearly check-ups between Hamilton and St. Catharines, The time has finally come in my life where I can live a half decent normal one. And I’m loving it!!!!!!! It’s only taken me well over 50 years to get here, but damn, I made it. This is all I’ve wanted my whole life is to be normal, as normal as anyone’s can be. No one will ever have any idea how this can feel unless you’ve lived a life of medical horror (for lack of a better word). Needless to say I’m enjoying every quiet, peaceful, unfullfilled moment I can grab onto.

The days since my last posting have, naturally, been unfulfilling except for the odd thing that Nat and I can manage to find. He’s been golfing 3 times a week and on those days without him I find some office work, baking, organizing or just watching the BBC’s iPlayer which I love. All things BBC England and most of my favourite cooking shows which I’ve now caught onto are on the iPlayer and I’m getting so many more ideas for baking breads, biscuits, cakes, etc.. I’ve been baking up a small storm of new goodies and it’s been great fun.

I’ve now started Christmas baking with several new items now in the freezer. As an added bonus, I’ve been organizing Gail’s recipe binder, and happened upon one of her recipes that looked pretty good, so I tried it. They’re small (1-1/2″) white cookies that you put together, like a sandwich, with a cream cheese, butter and icing sugar filling. It goes without saying I screwed up the filling and made it a little too watery. When I first made the filling it was so thick I could hardly mix it. Little Miss Big Idea decided to add a drop or two of warm water. Trust me, it didn’t work very well, but I did manage to fill the little suckers and stuck them in the freezer. We’ll see what happens around the holidays. I’ll have to remember to tell dear Sister, not to do what I did.

I’ve also tried a new recipe of  Christmas cookies with sprinkles. These are dead simple, and again with an icing sugar, butter and cream cheese frosting. There’s also sprinkle in the batter and on top which should make them look very festive. Another new one to add to the list.

This afternoon I finished a small finger cake recipe – 3 layers of cake (2 are coloured) with raspberry jam inbetween each layer and iced with melted chocolate chips. Found this easy bake in one of my America’s Test Kitchen magazines. Dead simple and easy!! Plus it looks very festive.

With all of the American election hoopla finally over, and the shock of Donald Trump being elected U.S. President still hanging around, the days have been somewhat odd. You have no idea how glad, happy, elated and gleeful I am to be Canadian with a young, intelligent and sane Prime Minister running our Country.

As the whole world knows this American election was a major shock and has everyone in a turmoil, including governments, trying to predict what this man is going to do. You could say it’s almost spooky, eerie and somewhat unsettling. Having said that, just shortly after the election and while Nat was golfing, I received a call from 666!!!!!! Seriously, this number showed up on the telephone screen and I, after taking a second look, decided to answer. No one actually answered but I could hear a woman’s voice as if she was in some sort of stunned state. Can’t explain it really, but this just added to the entire weirdness of the call. When Nat got home I literally had to show him the list of calls received, and he then believed me. This would have been doubly weird if that number had of disappeared from the screen. DooDooDooDooDooDoo!!!!!!!

Following along in the “unsettling” things that have been happening, Nat received a call from his niece. His sister, Jenny, had had a fall several weeks back, had gone through hip surgery and was in the throws of recovering. Nat had talked to his sister since her operation and he could tell she was depressed, wanted the hell out of there and was almost ready to have her family just “let her go”. It was devastating for Nat, to say the least, but he tried to cheer her up as best he could, but then Natalie called a week later to say Jenny had had a heart attack. Although it was a mild one, the Doctors are certain it was brought on from the stress she was going through. We had both come to that conclusion on our own.

Natalie advised that they had settled her down to recover and would then take her to the hospital in Newcastle, U.K. to have a couple of stents put in. Once that was done they would then transport her back to another local hospital closer to her home for recovery. We were again devastated. This poor woman was being transported all over the place, was still in major pain from the hip surgery and now had to go through another operation. At the age of 82 she was enduring more than her body was wanting. For the past couple of days Nat and I have been staying close to home in case of any updates and I can tell from Nat’s face he’s thinking of every scenario he can. In his mind, I truly believe he’s preparing himself. God, may only good news be at the other end of that telephone line next time it rings!!!!!!

On a happier note, we attended the 50th Wedding Anniversary of friends at the Scottish Club in St. Catharines on Saturday night. Nat has known this couple since he emmigrated to Canada with his first wife and they are best friends with Nat’s brother and sister-in-law. I get a huge kick out of this whole clan as they’re fun people to be around. Eat, drink and be merry and at all costs have a great time is their motto and that we did! There was shaved roast beef, pasta and meat balls, salads, rolls, 2 kinds of lasagna and more for the main meal, along with huge cream-filled meringues and anniversary cake for dessert. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren ran around the hall with festive balloons while the adults flitted from table to table mingling with each other. It was like musical chairs but great fun and a lot of getting caught up on family news.

As for the rest of the month, I’ve already got my Christmas shopping done and wrapped. I had found something unusual for 3 of my sisters earlier in the year and then decided screw it, I was going to buy for everyone. So I did. I found a couple more items for the other 2 sisters and then finished off my gift giving with something for a neice and nephew that are still in school. I really don’t want to offend my sisters, but this time of year really gets me depressed when it comes to Nat’s two girls and their children. The girls don’t want to exchange and we can only give money to our grandchildren. We don’t get to see them open their presents. One daughter has her own tradition on Christmas Eve because of her separation, with the two kids opening presents after everyone has gone home from her little Christmas Eve get-toghter. The other daughter’s family celebrate Christmas morning on their own and we can come for a visit in the afternoon after all is done.

I may be 67 but I’m still a huge kid at heart. Maybe I’m reminiscing too much of childhood days, but that’s where my heart is. I can’t control what the heart wants, except to deny it and settle for how things are. Life just gets harder and, at times, just bearable!


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A Cornucopia of Family, Friends, Food and a Train for Good Measure

For the first time in several years, Nat and I are experiencing a very busy social calendar. September, for us, is usually busy because of family birthdays, the Fall Fairs (Marshville, Balls Falls) and prepping the house for Fall and Winter. This year has seen a few extra invitations to social events, which has been a real delight. We’re never ones to pass up a good social gathering with friends and especially with family, along with a good free meal for an extra bonus.

Our first extra event began in August with a renewal of wedding vows after 50 years of marriage. Nat’s buddy from his GM working days and his wife, renewed their vows in a quaint little church in Niagara-on-the-Lake on a perfect Saturday afternoon. We’ve been friends with this couple ever since Nat and John retired despite not being in constant contact on a weekly basis. The ceremony was beautiful but our ages were beginning to show. Linda’s hip replacement and other ailments of age were waiting to give her problems but managed to stay away at least for this auspicious occasion. Nat’s back aches were also keeping their distance even though they lingered after sitting on Church pews for an hour. The after party was relaxing as we sat with another one of their GM buddies, Connie and her husband, while munching on assorted cold cuts, rolls, salads, veggie plate and gorgeous celebratory cake. As John and his wife managed to make their rounds visiting guests, Connie and Nat got caught up on their lives since retirement. It was quite apparent every one was having their ups and downs in life, medical complaints, family situations, political tongue wagging and holiday excursions. It was great seeing these friends again after so many years apart. It’s probably going to be a very long time before we see them again, so Nat and I wish them each well.

Rounding out the month of August we were invited to a BBQ at Gail and Bern’s. They had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary back in February with a meal at The Mandarin but they also wanted to do something in the summer months so everyone could enjoy the celebration (including Bern Jr.’s 50th birthday) in a more open and relaxed atmosphere. When Nat and I arrived it became suddenly apparent that this party was going to be a biggy. The Fritshaw duo invited their Classic/Antique Car Club to display their vehicles on the front lawn for all and sundry to oooh and aaahh over. Being GM people, naturally most of the vehicles were Buicks or Chevys and each one took you back to an era that we all felt was pretty special with a lot of great memories. This was also going to be a reunion of sorts by great neighbourhood friends that lived on or around our original family home in Beamsville. Gail has remained life time buddies with her girl friends from our street and school and it was nice to see them myself after almost 45 years. More catching up on life time events and reminiscing about friendly mischief. Nat and I had another fabulous time with family and meeting a lot of new people, along with enjoying a great meal selection of beef, chicken, cold cuts, rolls, salads and yummy desserts, and two celebratory cakes. This was going to be a “cheat” day for me with my diabetes and I had certainly prepped for the event by practically starving the days beforehand.  Trust me, it was worth it!!

This Saturday is the big wedding. My nephew, Dalton, and his lovely live-in girl friend, are finally going to tie the knot. The pair live and work in Edmonton, Alberta, but will be returning to her home in Smithville for the big Garden Party Wedding. This is the one I’ve been waiting for. This is why I bought that designer dress, along with the new shoes and purse, and this is why I had one last wedding gift to spend so much time on. What fun!! Nat and I don’t go to weddings any more, only funerals, so you can understand my gaiety. For once we’ll be all smiles and no doom or gloom.

During all of these special occasions, Nat and I have been kept somewhat busy on the house and yard. I’ve returned to baking a little. Managed to try out a new recipe for bread sticks after The Olive Garden. Eating at that restaurant leaves me craving bread sticks. This time I did some research online and came across a Better Than ‘Olive Garden’ Bread Sticks recipe that seemed so bloody easy it was too good to be true. Sure enough, it was. In addition they are delicious and hubby and I agree that they are better than the Olive Garden. I’m still having a rough time believing that this bread recipe literally instructed you to dump all ingredients (including yeast and water) into a bowl and mix. The only time consuming part was waiting for the dough to rise and to actually shape the bread sticks. Easy, peasy!!! I’ll definitely keep this recipe on hand for future use and even get-togethers.

The door wreath I’ve been working on is turning out half decent for a stumbling crafter like me. My patients for crafting has gone out the door, but this is one project I felt I could really complete and it appears I just might do so!! In fact, as I’m typing this I should be getting back to it while Nat is golfing and I have some quiet time on my hands.

Nat and I have also decided – on a whim – to book a 3 day trip on the Agawa Canyon Train Tour near the end of the month. We’ve not been on any sort of get away since our side trip to the Thousand Islands over a year ago. While both loving the train, this was Nat’s idea of a nice break before the snow falls, and we’re hoping the weather will co-operate and Mother Nature will display her fall colours throughout the Canyon when we arrive. The drive there will be somewhat tiresome (over 5-6 hours) but the end result will be worth the numb bum. Looking forward to this so much. A break from the ordinary hum drum of life.


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This Was A Biggy!

A long time tradition amongst this family is to send birthday, anniversary, get well and other occasion cards, as I’m sure it is in millions of other families. As we’ve been getting older, however, some occasions really don’t want to be celebrated, especially birthdays. Nor do we want to be reminded by receiving a card, but knowing that others in the family were at least thinking about you as they licked the stamp (or, maybe, even swearing at you because of the expense of that stamp!!) is nice.

The wedding anniversaries in my family have waned somewhat over the years with a few divorces and I’m the first to admit that I have not sent out anniversary cards every time to those sisters and brother who remain married. As a result I’ve long forgotten the number of years each spouse has actually been married. I was jolted back to reality when Nat and I received an invitation to an anniversary dinner a couple of weeks ago. I never even paid attention to the fact that this was an important one until I received an email from a niece. The oldest sister our family, and her spouse, would be celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary. Fifty years together!! This was a family first! My parents had passed away long before their 50th only because of a stroke and cancer. Two evils that prevented a very loving couple from celebrating a half century of their undying love, which was apparent to all of us on a daily basis.

As Gail and her hubby did not want any fuss, their daughter and Claudia arranged for a family and friend get-together at The Mandarin in St. Catharines. Despite the miserable weather – snow and wind almost everyday – everyone showed up and had a fabulous time. With 30 people in attendance Gail and Bern were kept active shifting from chair to chair talking to each of their guests and pictures being snapped for posterity. I soon realized the years had flown by and despite maybe a tiff or two it was still apparent this marriage would continue on hopefully until their 75th and beyond. The family is hoping to have a larger party in the Spring when they can also celebrate a milestone birthday for their son. Looking forward to that one!!

The next day, Monday, found Nat and I staying close to home. I had discovered from Claudia that her Archived Family Photos given to each family member on a set of CDs a few years back, was no longer working. Her computer was having trouble reading the data – and I knew right away what the problem was – I had labelled the damn things using those CD/DVD Label Kits. I have since found out that this is a big NO, NO, (the paste from the label can deteriorate the disc over time) and had found a way of removing such labels on some of our CDs by using Rubbing Alcohol, which works beautifully. I took the time on this particular day to fix the problem with Nat’s help – removing the labels from our set of Archived Family Photos – popped them in the computer to retrieve the files, and then drag and drop the files onto USB Drives. The whole process took less than a couple of hours and I now have brand new Archived photos on a safer medium. Plus I was extremely happy that I had another small task to do in the office – my sanctuary at times!! If you’ve got this problem just go here:- http://www.ehow.com/how_6515852_remove-disc-labels.html.

Tuesday arrived with more snow in the forecast. We’ve now officially had enough, but I can’t complain as my heart goes out to those good people along the East Coast of Canada and the U.S. who have been hit so hard over and over again. As Nat had an appointment in Stoney Creek, I decided to tag along and we would then drop by at Costco on the way home to stock up the freezer and pantry of edibles to survive in case we, too, get snow bound!! Naturally, the bill was much more than anticipated but at least we won’t starve for another couple of months. After heading home, unpacking our supplies and getting everything “freezer ready” we took the rest of the afternoon off. With Nat’s back getting worse and my lack of energy, we were both done for the day.

A couple of weeks ago, Claudia and Darby got to raving about their new purchase – a T-Fal Actifry. They had had complete success making homemade french fries and were tickled to death with this new gizmo. Naturally, Nat and I became intrigued and took a look at these wonder cookers. With a bit of research under our belts we went ahead and ordered one from Amazon.ca which arrived on Tuesday. After taking care to read the instruction manual, getting some recipes from the T-Fal web site, we took the plunge on Thursday and made Crunchy Chicken Wings which turned out great. A little skeptical at first – when done, the Panko Bread Crumb coating looked a little dry, but once bitten into, the wings were crunchy, tender and juicy. I adjusted the recipe a little bit for timing, but the whole process was really well received for a good healthy meal – especially for me when I’m trying not to eat fatty foods. This recipe took no oil at all – not even the one tablespoon needed for making french fries – so Nat and I are now set to experiment some more with this little miracle machine that now allows me to eat fried foods low in fat and cholesterol!!! Who ever though that would be possible?? The times we are living in just keep getting better and better!!