Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Come near my friends and cast an eye
Then go your way prepare to die.
Learn here your doom and know you must
One day like me be turned to dust.
Picture taken at the Webster family cemetery at Webster's Falls, Hamilton, Ontario

Monday, October 30, 2006

Hospital Hauntings

Shortly after we came to Canada, Grandma paid for Sandland Brother and me to go to a two week day camp, Camp Rich-al-daka. We did crafts, rode horses, went swimming, and for a grand finale, had an overnight camp out. After dark we roasted marshmallows and listened to ghost stories around a fire. Suddenly, we heard a crashing through the meadow and the “headless horseman” rode by on his galloping steed. I remember screaming in terror, the fun kind of terror you feel when you are truly startled and are surrounded by other screaming children. The camp counsellors must have enjoyed the reaction to their prank.

Most of us enjoy the thrill of a good mystery and the allure of the unknown. The nine and ten year old girls in my Sunday School class once asked me if I believed in ghosts. Going right to scripture, I reminded them of the witch of Endor who called up Samuel’s ghost (1 Samuel 28:7). And the gospels record that spirits of the deceased were seen in Jerusalem after Jesus died. (Matthew 27:52)
Superstitious fear should not be encouraged, especially when sound scientific knowledge is ignored. But most of us acknowledge a spiritual sphere of some kind or another.

The hospital where I work has two ghosts, reportedly seen by many people over the years. Long ago, when the building was a TB Sanatorium, a young boy under the care of a nurse named Francine died. Francine was grieved by his death and died a short time later herself. Now and then, Francine and the little boy appear at bedsides of the dying, and are jointly responsible for any number of unexplained activities around the building. They only seem to move around at night, so I have never seen them. As the photos show, there are several old, deteriorating houses on the hospital grounds that once served as residences for nurses and doctors, now making perfect habitations for restless spirits.
I think Francine is a creation of over active imaginations, but then, I have never worked a lonely night shift with the dying. Her story is re-told often and always captures our attention, quite a diversion from the objective, analytical medical perspective that usually prevails in a hospital.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind…2 Timothy 1:7

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Joint Replacement Strategies

The symposium I attended this week was organized to discuss strategies to improve efficiencies in knee and hip replacement surgery and rehabilitation. In Canada, we have a publicly funded health system that operates with dollar caps. This leads to waits for orthopedic, cardiac, ophthalmologic and even cancer surgery. The present demand for joint replacement surgery in the boomer generation is growing so quickly, that in five to seven years these procedures will potentially consume the total health budget of Ontario, so savings must be found. Each replacement costs between $10-12,000 CDN and patients sometimes have multiple joints surgeries. The average life of an artificial joint is ten years so more costly revisions are ahead for many people. The same situation exists in United States and other western nations.
We heard speakers talk about improving post operative pain control, decreasing hospital stays to one to three days, increasing the number of micro-procedures, using nurse practitioners, physician assistants and advanced practice physiotherapists to provide less expensive follow up for patients. During a question period, someone asked, “Why are we trying to find ways to do more surgeries, instead of trying to find ways to make this surgery obsolete?" There was absolute silence from the presenter’s forum.
We generally loathe making lifestyle changes to improve our health. How much easier it is to take a pill or have some surgery. Yet pharmaceutical companies push their drugs, surgeons welcome more cases, costs escalate and our health is not improved. Nine out of ten people requiring knee replacements are overweight or obese, and eight out of ten people requiring hip replacements are the same. The connection between smoking and lung cancer, and obesity and diabetes has entered public knowledge, but the link between weight and arthritis is less well understood. There are other causes of hip and knee arthritis including flat feet and improper foot wear, inadequate exercise, previous joint injury, and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. The majority of cases going to surgery could be improved or delayed with earlier preventative intervention. There are concerns that today’s increasingly obese children will experience an early onset of joint problems.
I decided not to give therapy advice in this blog, but I will recommend a great book for the general public called Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis by Miriam Nelson.
I wonder what health workers in third world cultures think of the money spent on treating health problems which are created by our excesses, as they work with inadequate resources to treat basic health needs of the poor?

Friday, October 27, 2006

More from the Royal Botanical Gardens

Douglas Fir Cones
Indian legends tell of a mouse who took refuge in a cone of a Douglas Fir. The mouse was fleeing a fox, a storm, or a fire, depending on who is telling the story. In any case, his tail and hind legs did not quite fit. This is why you see a three pointed bract protruding from each rounded scale of the cone.

Chinese Dogwood
Used in Chinese medicine for 2000 years, recent research shows the dogwood fruit has antibacterial, antifungal, antidiabetic and antioxidant properties, and that it can reduce blood pressure and suppress tumor growth. This attractive tree is about 20 feet tall and has white blossoms on the spring.

Carolinian Forest
Only 20 percent of Ontario’s Carolinian forests remain with trees such as ash, birch, chestnut, hickory, oak and walnut. Many species of animals and birds flourish in this environment. I identified chickadees and cedar waxwings and if I knew birds better, would have been able to identify many more in the open branches of the fall trees.

The Spider Web Garden
This garden is in a radial design, from the overhead steel web, the paving stones beneath, to the sedum, lavender and ornamental grasses. The designer was inspired by a love of nature and the comic book hero, Spiderman.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Waterfalls and Joint Replacements

Today I went to an excellent symposium on joint replacements. The speakers were enthusiastic and the material was fresh and interesting. Joint replacements are my bread and butter so it is important that I keep current on the latest practices. The only problem was the venue. The conference was held at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario, on a beautiful sunny day, one of the few we have had lately. Burlington is south of our home, and there were still many spots of fall colour. The Botanical Gardens are at the Niagara Escarpment, with many kilometers of trail above and below “Hamilton Mountain”. The Bruce Trail runs along the edge of the escarpment, and many mature oak and maple trees are found there. Niagara Falls is the most famous of the escarpment waterfalls, but Hamilton has more than thirty waterfalls within the city limits as creeks tumble over the limestone cliffs that encircle the area. How could I concentrate on hip and knee replacements with the view I could see out the window?
Well, I must confess, I slipped out of the last session, which was just a discussion of the topics presented earlier, and took a two hour walk along the Bruce Trail. I viewed three different waterfalls and enjoyed a spectacular view of Lake Ontario from the high cliffs.

I could see this fountain outside the conference centre at the Botanical Gardens

Borer’s Falls

Tews Falls

Webster’s Falls

I hope to return and find some more of these waterfalls soon.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Family trees in October

Here, I watch the wind blow the leaves from the branches of the trees and gather them in hollows where they await decay or the rake. The colours have peaked, and the few trees that grasp their yellowed leaves will soon be bare. The frequent rains have enlarged the local swamps and the still water mirrors the emptiness above.

Images of change, hibernation, death...
Mom photographs Dad, face down within a giant sequoia as they travel in California this month. What have the lofty branches seen over the millennia? What is the life of a man in comparison to the life of this tree?

Images of constancy, grandeur, insignificance...
Sandland brother sees each tree as a rare gift in a land of sand, rock and sun. Their roots seek out the moisture of a hidden spring or brook, and the green of an oasis assures the traveller of water necessary for life. With vegetation so scarce, the goats have learned to climb trees in order to feast on fresh leaves.

Images of persistence, adaptation, brilliance...
(Read more about tree climbing goats)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Dottie and Trudie

The parallel bars in the therapy room at the hospital are used frequently in gait training for our patients. No one in our program practices ballet demi-plies or pirouettes in the bars. Instead, legs with grinding joints, weakened muscles and heavy feet, are dragged along with the support of the arms and one or two assistants. Many patients get stronger and are able to walk out of the room with a walker or cane, while others end up in wheelchairs indefinitely.
Recently, we admitted two sweet ladies, roommates, one 96 and the other 93 years old, who had each fallen and broken a hip. They are both frail and weak, but were bright and ready for therapy every day. We would tease them about their combined age and wisdom of 189 years. Dottie and Trudie would be positioned in their wheelchairs at either end of the bars and would take turns trying to walk towards the other. Dottie, the 96 year old would go first and could move about eight steps before she needed a rest. She would then tell Trudie, You’re only 93. Come on, you can do it!” Trudie’s knees were in bad shape and would buckle when just standing. Dottie then would take a scriptural approach and say, “All things are possible to them who believe,” and Trudie would take a step, then another and another, a big smile on her face. She could not disappoint her cheering section.
Last week, Dottie became weaker, stopped eating and needed to be transferred out to the acute care hospital. Trudie has been despondent and hasn’t had the strength to even stand half way out of her chair.
I have worked in the community since 1995 and have visited about 2000 different patients in their homes in the past eleven years. I keep a log off the various conditions I see and have found that the number one reason for a home therapy visit is a fractured hip. The elderly people we see today were not treated early for osteoporosis, and many suffer more than one broken bone, usually a hip, but frequently a shoulder, wrist, pelvis or vertebra. There are screening tools and effective medications available to lessen the chances of these outcomes, but people are still often under diagnosed and under treated.
We are told that 25% of people with hip fractures will die within a year, and this will undoubtedly be true for these ladies. Trudie is aware of this and philosophically told me, “You can’t tell life what to do.”
Well, we don’t give up, for as long as there is life there is hope. Those who survive may do so because they have a will and a purpose for living, or perhaps because someone is there to cheer them on.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Rain, rain, go away...

We have had incessant rainfall for the past few days making this one of the wettest fall seasons I can remember. The family of one of my coworkers have a farm about 60 km from here. Their corn is starting to get moldy in the fields as the ground is too wet to support the harvesting machines. Her father has been cutting some of the corn by hand, and they are concerned about the quality of the feed for their livestock.
I have been itching to do some fall trail walking on the weekends, but the rain and mud have made it difficult to venture far from high ground. Today I saw a number of people in the city out for walks under their colourful umbrellas, as well some joggers who had decided that getting wet would not stop their pursuit of fitness. In Canada, we have to be pretty tolerant of weather extremes. If you don’t go out when it is too hot, too cold, too humid, too damp, too icy, too snowy, too wet, too windy, you would only get out a few days each month.
On the positive side, some vegetables have flourished in this wet season. At the market yesterday, there were some of the largest cauliflowers I had ever seen! The farmer told me they were extra large because of all moisture they had received this year. I already had a supermarket cauliflower at home, but could not resist getting a “monster head” as well. The smaller cauliflower is now in soup, and we will be eating a lot more of this vegetable throughout the week.
We cheered ourselves today in the kitchen this dull day by cooking food for the week….curried cauliflower and lentil soup, pumpkin bread, applesauce muffins and cranberry squares. And I will be out with the dog tonight pounding the pavement under my big black brolly.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Oh, sugar, sugar...

Sugar cane is one of Mexico’s most important agricultural crops. My parents’ home in Jalisco is surrounded by sugar cane fields that are harvested in the spring. My mother took this photo of their home earlier this year as the fields were being burned in preparation for the next day of harvest. Burning the fields gets rid of leaves on the stalks and extra vegetation in the fields making the harvest more compact and easier to transport. The labourers use machetes to cut the canes into one metre lengths and bundle them in precarious mounds onto old panel trucks. The work is hot and labour intensive. The cane is sold to a mill and then the crop is processed in various forms.

In roadside stands such as the one pictured here, small chunks of sugar cane, marinated in salt and lime juice, are sold in plastic bags. When we climbed the Ceboruco volcano, I found the juicy, sweet and salty canes a fibrous but refreshing snack, although they eventually gave me a sore mouth.
Statistics tell us that the average Canadian consumes 30 to 40 kilograms of processed sugar each year. Sugar is one of the world’s cheapest commodities, and this means that farmers receive very little compensation for their crop and often live in poverty. We give little thought to the source when we buy two kilograms of white sugar for a couple of dollars. In Victorian times, sugar was relatively expensive and was sold in hard cones, which were grated or broken in chunks with tongs. It would be difficult to over indulge in sugar when it took so much work to use it.
Fair trade products, such as sugar, tea, coffee and chocolate are readily available from our larger grocers as well as in other stores such a Ten Thousand Villages. The farmers reportedly receive more money for their crops and other benefits such as education in their co-operatives. This fair trade sugar I bought cost triple the amount of regular sugar. I use it sparingly and thoughtfully and hope that the people involved in production received a fair wage for their efforts.
At Christmas time, I make these sugarplums, similar to the way they were made many years ago when they were rolled in sugar grated from a cone. Dried fruit and nuts would have been an exotic holiday treat making “visions of sugarplums dance in their heads”.

Victorian Sugar Plums
5 cups assorted dried fruit
1 cup nutmeats
Grind fruit and nuts together in a food processor. Form into one inch balls and roll in granulated sugar. Put each sugar plum into a small paper candy cup. These keep well in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Wartime Memories

I have seen a number of patients with tattooed numbers on their forearms, engraved during their time spent in concentration camps during World War II. Our community has strong German roots and we also have many people here from Eastern Europe who immigrated following the war. The stories they tell defy imagination and many of them carry emotional scars to this day.
On our psycho-geriatric unit, we have a poor, tormented man of Polish descent who has lost his recent memories following a stroke. Unfortunately, he has retained the memories of his time spent in a work camp in Siberia during the war. All day he calls out, “help me, help me”, and, “I have to go to the bathroom”, or “give me some food”. He thinks the staff members are Nazis. His very supportive family has told us that he was denied food and was not allowed to go to the bathroom for extended periods of time as punishment in the camp. Our physician ordered a urinary catheter for him, in hope that his bladder would not fill and send distress signals to his brain. It did not help. The staff and other patients have felt stressed with his constant calling, but his torment is greater than all ours combined.
The Becka introduced me to the graphic novel, Maus. I later found out that my good friend, who is an English professor at York University, has added the two books to her curriculum. I sat down one evening, very tired, and decided to read only a few pages of the first volume. I could not put it down and finished “My Father Bleeds History’ in one sitting. Art Spiegelman brilliantly tells two stories; one of his father’s war experiences and the other of his relationship with the old, sick, cantankerous man. The families of the survivors live with the psychological fallout from their war experiences through subsequent generations.
I highly recommend reading this two volume set and then taking time to reflect on the peace and freedom we enjoy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gardening at Four O'Clock

The weather has warmed up considerably since the weekend, so I went out to my garden to assess the damage from the first light freeze. I have very few annuals, but had to remove the soggy stems of the fragile and frozen impatiens plants from the pots on the deck. The geraniums have survived thus far. The weight of the snow flattened the peony foliage and the large leaves of the rhubarb plants had collapsed under the heavy ice. The ferns have retreated to the soil and the hosta leaves are yellowed and rotting. I popped the last of the frozen raspberries in my mouth. But much remains, and I hope that I will be harvesting from the garden until December.
Arugula, planted in late July, has never tasted better as it grows in an old car tire. I love mixing the peppery leaves in with other greens, or steaming them lightly with some pasta.

Sage, thyme, oregano and parsley scorn the frost and will provide flavour to our meals for weeks to come.

Lavender flourishes beside the Autumn Joy sedum.

Red leaves of the primrose contrast with the orange of the chrysanthemums

I pick a bouquet to brighten a table indoors.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Thoughts on English spelling and grammar

English is my first and only language. One of my few regrets in life so far is that I did not learn another language fluently. The language centres in my brain are no longer plastic enough to learn the nuances and unique sounds used in order to speak another language without a strong accent.
I took the picture of this sign at the farm where we buy our apples. I have no idea who created the misspelled sign, but we had a good chuckle when we saw it. I have been acutely aware of my weaknesses in spelling and grammar since starting this blog. I labour over phrases and spelling, aware that readers may find an error as glaring as the one on the sign. In Canada we use a mixture of British and American spelling, for instance colour and labour, rather than color and labor. But we use the American spelling of pediatric rather than the British paediatric. I have been told that learning a language such as Spanish is much easier than learning English, as there are fewer grammatical and spelling irregularities. Both my brothers who live in Mexico have schools where English is taught as a second language. I sat through one class earlier this year while the students conjugated verbs in the past tense (ugh!) and practiced a vocabulary list. I conjugated French verbs and memorized many vocabulary lists for 7 years in school and cannot carry on a conversation in Canada’s other official language.
The most notorious English words end in “ough”. The words rough, through, though, trough, plough, thorough, hiccough, and cough are similar in spelling, but all are pronounced differently. “Eye” and “I” and “ewe” and “you” have no similarities in meaning or spelling, but sound exactly the same.
Recently I told one of my patients to “lay down on the mat” in order to do his exercises. He quickly corrected the common grammatical error I made and reviewed the usage of lay and lie and laid for me. No wonder so many people are labeled “dyslexic”!
So I have purchased a small style book and am reviewing…I should say learning…things I was never taught in school about English grammar.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sales Help Needed

See The Becka Blogs for details
Thoughts on Blogging
Today marks the 3 month anniversary of this blog. It is interesting to see how ideas evolve and how interaction with readers and other bloggers influence future posts. One of the first blogs I read was Fat Doctor through a link on Medscape. I was intrigued by her story and followed it sporadically for a few months. My daughter then began corresponding with cousins and friends on MySpace and I got a better idea of the interactive quality of blogs. However, MySpace was not for me and I decided to try a Blogger account. For the most part, it has been quick and easy to use.
Anyone working in health care knows that emotional and spiritual strength is essential for full physical recovery. I called my blog Body, Soul, and Spirit to reflect these aspects of wellness. I had read Leo Galland’s book, The Four Pillars of Healing a few years ago and had been impressed with his holistic approach to medicine. I thought I would write about physiotherapy, perhaps giving some tips and advice, and about the experiences I have with my patients in my workplace.
How things have changed! I decided against giving any therapy advice, and if I am inspired to start a physiotherapy blog in the future, will enlist the help of other practitioners. Medical blogs like Borneo Breezes and Tundra Medicine Dreams are well written, and feature excellent photos. The reader is taken to other places and cultures with fascinating stories about health and life in general. They are among my favourite blogs. I discovered Burning Silo when searching for information on monarch butterflies. This great Ontario site shows the beauty of the most ordinary creatures in spectacular photos and interesting writing. I even viewed Bev’s snake photos, which will surprise those who know me well. Through comment links on this site, I viewed other blogs that I have revisited frequently. Somewhere in NJ covers a variety of topics in exceptionally well-written form. Laura writes in an uplifting way about nature, birding, pets, and some aspects of her personal life. Dave, in Via Negativa is a philosopher and naturalist, and shows respect for those with beliefs other than his own. I do not understand or agree with all his writing, but he does make me think. He features some unusual and moving pieces of original prose and poetry. There are other sites I visit out of topical interest or for their unique content, and of course, the family bloggers have my full, daily support. (see side links)
I have discovered a love of writing, perhaps inherited from other avid journal keepers in older generations of my family. I am more observant of little things each day as I carry my camera and ideas around with me. People inspire me. I love listening to their stories and watching the ways in which they face their challenges. I enjoy travel and nature and draw on recent observations and previous personal experiences. I have learned new things about my own family as members email facts and stories in response to certain posts. I look forward to new inspiration and ideas, interaction with old and new friends, in this blog and others.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Motorcycles and Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th and it is estimated that 1000 bikers gathered in the small Lake Erie town of Port Dover for a unique celebration that began on a Friday the 13th in 1981. The weather in southern Ontario and upstate New York is cold and snowy today, so the crowd was small compared to the estimated 75,000 people who gathered there on May 13th, 2005.
Bikers have had a wild reputation and conjure images of outlaw bike gangs, drug dealers, violent men and tough women. But today’s biker is apt to be your doctor, lawyer or newscaster, or a well aged hippy reliving the glory of his youth. I took the photo of this portly biker in Niagara-on-the-Lake, his camera-toting partner and stuffed toys in the rear. He was part of a twenty minute long procession of bikers on a spring weekend excursion. As gas prices soar, the motorbike becomes an economic form of transportation. I was very surprised to find out that one of my co-workers, a gentle, quiet, conscientious woman in her 40’s, rides her motorcycle to work in good weather. The charge nurse the same unit, a mother of three teenagers, celebrated her anniversary with her husband with a motorcycle trip from Ontario to Florida at the end of September. Fortunately, they enjoyed fine weather for the entire two weeks they were away.
I felt brave and somewhat reckless when I went to town on the back of my brother’s motorcycle in Mexico this year. On the way back I let go and took this photo of the road and the side of the volcano where El Granjero’s home, school and hobby farm are situated. So, happy Friday the 13th , whether you are traveling by motorbike, or motorcar, or are relaxing at home at the end of your busy work week.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Winter left a calling card today...

The wind is cold and the sky is filled with fast moving clouds, heavy with moisture from the Great Lakes.

Brilliant sunshine...blinding snow...
blowing leaves...bare trees.

The first snowfall each year invariably ensures a phone call at work from an excited daughter. "Mom! It's snowing. I am playing snow songs on the piano!" The girls are grown, but have never lost their child-like love of winter. For me, the first snow is a signal to find the winter coats, boots, mittens and scarves. Where is the ice scraper for the car? I have to be ready to leave for work earlier in anticipation of icy roads and unprepared drivers.
Where do I rediscover the joy in this change of season?

I think I will bundle up, take a walk in the cold air, come home and have a hot drink, and find some of those snow songs to play.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Reflection on the year 1948

My maternal grandfather died of cancer on Thanksgiving Day, October 11, 1948, when he was in his early 50’s. My mother was 16 years old at the time, so I never knew him personally, but Mom was very close to her dad and has told us many stories about his life. He was a farm boy who went to the University of Toronto and became a medical doctor, graduating just after the end of WW1. He had to serve as a reservist in the army’s medical corps, and so graduated a year after my grandmother, who was also a doctor. He and Grandma practiced medicine in a small town and pursued many interests outside of their careers. Always a farmer, Granddad bought a large piece of sandy land outside the town. He planted a large stand of pine trees and a big apple orchard that remains productive to this day. As children, we played in the meadows and pines and spent our fall weekends picking grounders from under the apple trees. The farm had a big barn and a small log cabin where my grandparents would relax, inviting friends and family for picnics and birding excursions.
My mother called me last night and reminded me of these things. She said, “I often wonder what Dad would think of things if he were here right now.”
The world has changed so much since the end of WW2. In the year 1948, the cold war was starting as Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia. Israel became a nation and Britain was losing its influence in the Commonwealth countries. Toronto won the Stanley Cup, and Cleveland won the World Series. Stamps cost three cents.
In 1948, few would envision the influence of television and computer technology, the power of instantaneous communication and the sprawl of communities spawned by our love of the automobile. We enjoy better health and relative world peace at this time, although there is increased fear, anxiety and decreased community involvement because of our hectic pace of life. I think Granddad would be most overwhelmed by our rampant materialism. He lived through war time rationing of food and fuel. The items purchased for their home were of good quality, but were meant to last a lifetime, not to be discarded when the next decorating fad emerged. We fill our homes and lives with disposable items with the Costco and Walmart mentality of warehouse stockpiling. The current electronic gadgets are literally “throw-away” when something new comes out. We have come to expect every convenience and an enormous amount of choice in our pursuit of pleasure.
I think I would like to join Granddad in a part of his 1948 world… a walk through the farm…a visit to the home of a sick patient…a lunch in the garden…or an evening in the living room listening to Hockey Night in Canada on the radio.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Family Ties
At holiday times, the absence of family is more acutely noticed. My own family is spread all over the world, which has been their pattern for many years. This Christmas photo was taken in Durban, South Africa by my father. Christmas in the southern hemisphere fell during my summer break from school, as did my January birthday. I distinctly remember this day when I posed in the park with my mother, Sandland brother and El Granjero, who was only a few months old. Dad had the camera on a tripod, and using the timed shutter feature, ran and took his place with the family. This picture would have been the only presence our family had in the homes of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins as they celebrated Christmas in Canada. Our family continued to grow and two more brothers were born before I reached my 10th birthday. Having five children barely slowed my parents down at all, and we were all good travellers and good friends. (Well, most of the time!) I estimate that my parents were about 28 years old here...very young, but focused on their goals unlike many of the 20-some people I know today.
I sometimes envy the close proximity that some families enjoy, and wish my children had grown up closer to all their cousins. We have been together as a complete group only two or three times in the past twenty years. On the other hand, we understand the great gulf between the rich and poor nations of the world and appreciated the high standard of living we enjoy in North America. Geography and history make a lot more sense when you have “been there”. And we all have the confidence and curiosity to explore new places.
The world has become much smaller. I remember the 28 day passage by boat from Durban to Montreal, most of it with no land in sight. Today we can be with the family, wherever they are, in less than a day.
So to my family, immediate and extended, living in the Arabian Gulf, Spain, Canada, United States, Mexico, and wherever else you are presently travelling , Hello! I miss you! I love you!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Today is Thanksgiving Day and a big dinner has been prepared. All I have left to do is make gravy and mash the potatoes when the turkey is done. Everyone has at least one dish they claim as a favourite… turnip and apple casserole, cornbread stuffing, (as well as regular bread stuffing), pumpkin pie, apple pie, creamed peas, cranberry sauce…
The cranberry sauce is my favourite, and to me, turkey cannot be eaten without it. The rest of the family begs to differ, so I get it all to myself.
When we were on Manitoulin Island last month, we met a lady who was picking high bush cranberry fruit which she makes into jelly each year. The bushes grew wild along the roadside (see photo) as did many apple and pear trees from the neglected orchards of deserted farms. In a reference book I read that the berries from the high bush cranberry can be toxic, especially when raw, so I decided not to pick any for myself. The bush has beautiful leaves that turn a brilliant red in the fall.
I have never seen a “real" cranberry farm in Ontario, even though we did pass an Indian reservation on Georgian Bay that advertised a cranberry crop. However, they are plentiful in our stores right now and there are several recipes we all enjoy. This recipe is delicious and not too sweet. My modifications are in parentheses.

Cranberry Date Squares

Combine 1- 12 oz package of cranberries, 1- 8 oz package of dried dates, with 2 tablespoons of water in a saucepan. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the cranberries have popped and the dates are softened. Mix well. (I usually add a little more water and then I don’t have to worry about scorching the pan.)

In a bowl, mix together

2 cups flour (I use ½ a cup less as the crumbs can be too crumbly)
2 cups rolled oats
1 ½ cups brown sugar (I use ½ cup brown sugar and ½ cup of Splenda)
½ teaspoon of baking soda
½ teaspoon of salt
1 cup of melted butter

Put ½ of the crumb mixture in a 9x13 pan, pat it down, and bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees. Cover the base with the filling and spread the rest of the crumbs on the top. Bake for 30 minutes at the same temperature. It is best to cut the squares when they are still slightly warm. This freezes very well. (They even taste good when frozen!)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Postcards for Thanksgiving Weekend
This long weekend we celebrate the Canadian thanksgiving holiday. We are almost at the end of harvest and this is the last big weekend for the local farmers’ markets. Our markets continue year-round, but many of the outdoor vendors will not return until the spring. In a previous post, I mentioned our biggest market, which is the best I have seen anywhere in southern Ontario, Michigan and upstate New York. (Feel free to advertise a good market in your area!)
The families who operate the productive farms, Mennonites and others, display the abundance of their gardens, fields, workshops and kitchens. Susan, from Susan Gets Native mentioned her brother-in-law, “who syndicates "The Amish Cook" in a few hundred newspapers around the country.”
So on Saturday, I took a good look at the food vendors with their sweet and savoury treats including pies, sausages, fresh and aged cheeses, and maple syrup products. There are other curious offerings such as head cheese, cook cheese, pig tails and sauerkraut for more adventurous palates. This is one of two buildings where indoor vendors are open year round. The other building has a livestock auction and flea market.

My husband, in the bottom left corner, is purchasing some of his favourite summer sausage.

The homemade cinnamon buns are popular. I prefer the hot apple fritters, but could not get near the counter to get a photo. You must wait patiently in a long line for the apple treats.

A young girl works selling corn, potatoes and squash.

Home made furniture is sold from this buggy.

Finally, a mime plays the part of a bronzed soldier, honouring Canadian troops abroad in the Afghanistan mission, and celebrating the peace of our nation.

There will be a big Thanksgiving parade on Monday, and lots of turkey and pumpkin pie.
Happy Thanksgiving!

As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease. Genesis 8:22

For those who are interested in knowing the differences between the Old Order Mennonites of Waterloo and Wellington Counties in Ontario and the Amish, follow this link.
(I hope the large pictures will load...Blogger is being very difficult today!)