Pickles or Jam?

My siblings and I planned a surprise hall dinner and social for my parents’ 60th birthdays. My sister put in most of the leg work; including the preparation of 20 pounds each of macaroni and cabbage salad. This seemed like a lot but I was not going to start a debate on the issue. We spent an entire day decorating, running errands and preparing food. The thing I was most excited about was to see and document the looks on their faces when they walked into a hall full of friends and family.

My sister had fabricated an elaborate story involving a late Easter Dinner and another family member’s birthday in order to lure them to the hall. She even borrowed their meat slicer and had our Mom make a salad for dinner. While the 5 of us (including significant others) were driving around in my sister’s Journey completing our errands, my Mom called on the Bluetooth. Since we were not supposed to be in town, I covered my mouth and held my breath as my sister answered the phone.


“Hi, I called you at home but couldn’t get you. Are you on your way to a baby shower?” (Another lie)


“About tonight, I am bringing a card for Eldon (The Alleged Birthday Boy) and I don’t have a gift for him. Do you think he would like pickles or jam?” (See post on “Crazy Garden Lady”)

“You don’t have to bring a gift but whatever you like.”

“Ok. I’ll see you later.”

AND . . . Breathe.

I have left out one small detail. My brother had answered his phone in the middle of this conversation to whisper, “just a second,” to the person on the other end. We were all busting a gut, trying to keep our laughter silent. She didn’t suspect a thing.

Family and friends started arriving in the afternoon with the Birthday Boy/Girl expected an hour later. We were ready with a look-out and cameras in hand. People were amazed at how good of liars we were. Momma didn’t teach her kids to lie but just this once, we assumed it acceptable. And hilarious. 

The look-out (Jack of Most Trades) sounded his alarm. He had spotted the car and they were due at the front door in T-minus 2 minutes. Again, silence overcame us. Our unsuspecting parents walked into the hall as seventy plus people yelled,


What we saw on their faces was not surprise and happiness, but confusion.

3. . . 2 . . . 1

And now, realization.

You see, neither of their birthdays was even close to the date we set for the party. They were invited to an Easter Dinner and Birthday and brought along a Broccoli Salad and Eldon’s “Birthday Jar of Jam.”

A jar of jam signifying our sweet victory!

It turns out I should have debated the 20 lbs of macaroni. Jack of Most Trades was about to contact his kitchen union and pose a strike in response to my proposal to serve macaroni salad for dinner every night for a week. Unfortunately, the salad met its demise because I, quite simply, cannot have my foreman walking out on the job to leave an unhandy, unlucky housewife to look after herself. 

The Mother Nature Face-off

I slept on a mattress on the floor in our living room at the foot of our decorative electric fireplace. In April, it was 10 degrees Celsius in our home. Yes, that’s right, another joy of homeownership. We arrived home on Sunday from a weekend with my family to a broken furnace. Luckily, Jack of Most Trades researched our issue and found the problem that evening but was unable (or unwilling?) to fix it himself. What people did before Google is beyond me. I was learning how to be an HVAC pro in 15 minutes just by watching a video I found online. I am confident I would have been able to fix our furnace if I had been allowed near it. For some reason I have been kept away from all skilled labour since the “Downspout Incident.”

For an entire night I was cold. I was miserable. Remember how I said I could do without the outdoors? I believe this incident was no accident. The furnace service guy predicted the problem lies in the fact that the previous owners drywalled the basement while the furnace was running. Canada’s Worst Handyman strikes again! This is a believable explanation except that I know the real reason our furnace bit the proverbial dust. Two words: Mother Nature. She knows how much I loathe the outdoors and being cold so she taught me a lesson by bringing the outdoors, in. If I could have a conversation with her, I would probably say something like this:

“Hey Mom, what’s your deal? It is April, we are still getting -15 degree weather, and I am wondering if you should seek help for your senility. I am on your side! I recycle, buy organic and really like trees and fresh air. Next time you get the urge to play a sick joke on me, please don’t. I want to let you know that 10 degrees and sleeping on the ground is a lot like camping. I like camping. I actually LOVE it. So, I win.”  

I patiently await Mother Nature’s reply. And it better be accompanied with Spring-like temperatures.

Crazy Garden Lady

I can’t believe this is happening to me.

As a background, I grew up on a farm and all I knew was homegrown vegetables and my mom’s various gardens and flower beds which, over the years grew in size and quantity. Even now when their kids are grown up, you can venture out to the farm on any given summer day and you will find my mom tending to her vast garden. She still plants the same amount as when all of us were living there. Often I hear her say she could “feed an army” with all that she grows. In fact, she could and even after giving away the goods from half her garden, she still has two deep freezes, two fridges, a water well and a cold room full of vegetables! I have made a silent vow to never follow in her footsteps because I remember being worked to the bone; planting, picking, tailing, cutting, stringing beans, shelling peas, hilling potatoes, cross pollinating tomatoes; and the list goes on.

It’s a regular occurrence for me to call or text my lovely sister to ask advice. The other day, I called her at work because I was in Walmart and wanted to know where I could find “those little round dirt things you plant seeds in.” She knew exactly what I was talking about because we are sisters and all the misunderstandings when we were young have turned us into perfectly in sync, mind reading adults.

Obviously I am an amateur to the outside world because the Customer Service Rep looked at me blankly and then said,“Oh, you mean peat pallets? They are just over here.”

(Yes, peat pallets! Love those things!)

“I’m sorry, we must be out.”

“OUT?” (Instant hulk-like, little kid temper tantrum rage).

I grabbed my composure and moved on to another store. Luckily, they had the round dirt things and not just ordinary ones. The round things were surrounded by a glorious mini greenhouse! Genius; who comes up with these things?! I promptly bought the greenhouse along with seeds for two types of tomatoes and a variety of petunias.

I tackled the job of sowing my seeds yesterday. I had 24 round dirt things which seemed like not enough. I got my phone out to ask for more advice.

“How many tomato plants do you usually plant?”

“Four, and one cherry tomato. I get quite a few tomatoes off them.”

“Oh. I was thinking more like 12”.

“That would be a lot. You would be like Mom then.”

Noooo! I don’t want to be Crazy Garden Lady! It’s better than cats but all the neighbor kids will still point and laugh. This brings me back to my original point: I can’t believe this is happening to me. I thought about it for a moment and decided being Crazy Garden Lady might be the end of the world and 12 tomato plants was way too much. . . 

I have started 12 tomato plants. Like mother, like daughter.

A BBQ Easter

The barbecue has emerged from its winter hibernation and we shall all rejoice, for there will be less dishes to wash.

We won a trip to Mexico so we decided it was time to whip our butts back into shape. Part of our plan is to cut down on the red meat. What does an omnivore eat after taking meat off the table? Poultry and fish. And, since we live inland, our dream of dining on fresh seafood by the handfuls has been viciously torn away. I never thought I would say this but the chicken is getting tired. There are only so many ways you can dress it up; it’s still chicken. Some nights, I find myself participating in a staring contest with the butterflied breasts. They want fun, flair, to be grilled to perfection and placed on a bed of other delicious eats. I tell them to go cook themselves.

But alas, they do not.

We have demolished every last morsel of barbecued chicken for the past two nights and will probably go for the hat trick this evening. Anyone else have BBQ chicken and yam medallions for Easter Dinner? Didn’t think so.

You know how I know we’re rednecks? The BBQ has taken the place of an old dishwasher on our 2’x2′ front deck where the door hits it every time we leave the house. I’m beginning to understand why the neighbors haven’t welcomed us to the neighborhood. . .

Personally, I prefer yams fried or baked because they have a wonderful sweet flavor that is lost to smoke on the barbecue. Here is the easy BBQ method:

Yam Medallions

Wash and peel 1 medium sized yam.

Cut yam into 1/8″ slices (or thinner).

Toss slices in olive oil.

Grill on top rack of BBQ on medium heat for 7 min.

Flip and grill for 5 more minutes.Finish with a sprinkle of salt.

These little guys can get away from you quickly and burn easily. Keep an eye on
them and if in doubt, use a lower temperature so they cook through. You can
master the art of multi-tasking by grilling your chicken or steak (lucky you)
at the same time.