February 20, 2017

Rich Chocolate Mousse Cake

I've been watching Anna Olson on tv and online for years. I really enjoy how authentic she is and her presentation is easy to follow. 

I tried this Rich Chocolate Mousse Cake recipe a few years ago. Even though my skills are much below the pastry chef Anna and my end result was definitely not identical to Anna's, the cake was definitely rich and delicious. Best of all, every time I make this cake, everyone LOVES it. It is by far the most requested dessert. I share the recipe with everyone who will take it and I explain to them that while it maybe more labour-intensive than whipping up a box cake, this is absolutely worth it!


Outdoor Beauty

Marigolds & Nasturtiums

I love planting Marigolds and Nasturtiums in the garden.
Both are so easy to grow from seed and both are beneficial to the
garden veg and fruit and just pretty to look at.

February 12, 2017

The Garden of Feedin'

So I'm on this purge/organize journey expecting to complete this ongoing and somewhat overwhelming task by April 29, 2019. I'm on a five-year plan. Rome wasn't built in a day and I am trying to preserve my strength & sanity.

One project on the go is organizing photos. I have thousands of digital photos on the hard drive and no one told me just putting them in folders would not be good enough. Tag. You're it they said. So a-tagging I am. The second part of this nostalgic task is scanning and organizing all the photos my parents accumulated during their lives. This in and of itself is exhausting. Emotionally. I fear this will take the hardest toll on me but as my parents would instruct me, I "keep plugging along". 

If you're an emotional sap like I am, you'd be wiping your eyes going through these old memories too sometimes laughing until you cried. It's shocking at the feelings that arise when you go through "old things".  The warm, happy thoughts of "I remember that!" turn into damp cheeks as the realization hits my mind that so much time has passed and so many things have changed. The real kicker in this game? We have zero control over time passing and the world changing.

Today I came across photos of my parents working in the homestead garden. (My parents had a garden at home and a two larger gardens at their summer house as well). I can't even go into the amount of hard work that went into keeping two places and three large gardens.

Let me tell you, neither of my parents cared to be photographed while wiping the sweat from their brow but they always momentarily humoured my camera play. I had to be quick to get off a shot, let alone a decent photograph! Always seemed to be in-action shots. Their work never ended.

I love the photo of my mom posing in her cucumber patch in 1996 donning her "you must wear a hat in the garden" straw chapeau and swinging those "never be embarrassed of your body" sun-attractant ivory legs slathered with the highest SPF known to mankind.

So much of this photo has changed in a mere 20 years. The old asparagus patch is gone, covered with top soil and seeded over. The chain link fence now separates the yard from the laneway. The neighbours cut down the trees to make way for construction. This was so sad for me because my grandmother lived there until I was 14 (when she passed) and those were her trees. I'm also not an advocate of chopping down healthy trees just to build an object four times as big as you need. I guess the rest of the world is living large and I haven't caught up to that movement, nor would I ever strive to. Not to mention, when those trees were brought down, the hydro was out for quite a while as the "kids" laid a tree down on the hydro line. A $30,000 insurance claim. With a quiet chuckle I think "was it really worth killing those trees in the name of progress"? Apparently, the zip-zap fire show on the hydro line was just short of the Canada Day firework display.

But things change and life goes on. The one-old-tree/one-new tree family is one of my favourite neighbours. Ironically, when the storm brought down a big branch from my old Maple tree onto my hydro line last June, this same neighbour ran me a lifeline of electricity from his house, across the laneway and my garden up into my kitchen window - just so I could have power. For that alone, I continue to make them goodies. Yes. Things certainly do change.

When that photo was taken, sadly, my mom would only have three more summers to garden. She passed away on January 1, 2000. How she loved her garden. Of all the women I've known in my life, I've never seen any other woman work (and play) so hard and consistently. She seldom whined about the aches and pains that I know she must have suffered with or that the work was never-ending.

I've been working in her garden for 17 years now and there are times when I'm on my hands and knees in the dirt and I just know my mom is happy I'm there. I also know I don't measure up to her gardening standards, nor her work ethic but I enjoy playing in the same dirt that she worked in for 36 years. It's somehow very comforting to know that the same soil that falls through my fingers now is the same soil that fell through her fingers for so many years.

The 1992 photo of dear old dad in his tomato patch is a good laugh for me also. We would say back and forth "Look, there's a hoe in the garden! Well, our humour wasn't for everyone but what I wouldn't give to hear him crack just one more joke!

I'll never understand where my father found the energy to work all day for the man and come home and work outside until dark most nights. It's exhausting. Even I need to have a day off from it during the yard months. I know I inherited my work ethics from both my parents but I still don't possess half of the hard work gene that they had.

I can no longer see the houses out behind at ground level. There are fences, trees, shrubbery and a big garage built to block my view now - which is ok. Everyone is entitled to hide their fortress to block interaction with the world and its people although I've never had anything to hide which is evident in my very open yard. If that cold garage wasn't built there, the city would consider my request to have that portion of the non-vehicle traffic laneway closed off. Someone else's progress is my irritant and yet we must live and let live. Yes, so many things change in a quarter century. Perhaps people feel safer hidden away from reality.

I smile when I see the four long rows of tomatoes in the photo. Mom and dad didn't cut back on planting even after us brats were out of the house. We were all thankful for that. It was like Christmas opening up boxes of mom's care packages. I miss that so much. And each year I try my damnedest to cut back. Some inherited traits are harder to drop than others.

To me, it's amazing how two simple photos can bring up so many memories. One hysterical memory for me was way back when - I don't remember exactly. My mom came running into the house from the garden screaming "Someone shot me in the ass!!!" My dad looked concerned but just listened while my mom ranted about being bent over weeding the garden and being shot at. When dad couldn't hold it together any longer and just moments before my mom called the cops, my pops admitted that he was the one who took out the pellet gun and took aim at the ass in the garden. Thankfully, my mom had the same type of humour that my dad had. I don't know if I would have taken a pellet to the butt so lightly. Mom barely had a bruise and they both thought the incident was worth it as they shared that story with everyone who visited The Garden of Feedin'.

February 7, 2017

February Blahs

So most people get the winter blahs in January after the hustle of the Christmas season is over and they realize there is still many months of winter left. I seem to feel a little underwhelmed with the cold, snow season in February. Today it hit especially hard as we had melting temperatures in the last few weeks and today I work up to -35C. I remembered that we still have at least a couple months of winter. I just needed to relive some summer season so I looked through some photos and this is what happened. Now maybe I'll set up the greenhouse and start those celeriac, leek and eggplant seeds.

October 16, 2016

Dead Wood

Most of us work for a living. Most of us have to and some of us, like me, just simply love to work. I love the work. I hate everything else that goes along with it.

I recently read an article that was talking about how management needs to "manage out the dead wood". In 2016, you think so? I've been saying this my entire working life and it's been a lifetime and it has never been appreciated by anyone who could do anything about the dead wood.

Supervisors, managers and VPs don't want to deal with any issues from the low hanging fruit. This is a shame. Oh, they have all the excuses of why they "can't" do anything about ongoing problems and in the same breath they demand more, more, more productivity. Employees need to be faster, stronger...robotic.

My friends know I'm no lover of the corporate world. Corporations promise you the world but you get their world - the corrupt corporate empire. You think you're going to be part of the family in a great conglomeration. You mistakenly think your long hours, fierce loyalty and hard work will pay off on more than one front and you will feel complete and productive professionally. You believe you will be taken seriously and treated fairly. The truth is that no matter how small the corporation is that you work FOR, you are still just a number. And management and the human resource department don't want to hear from you if you're slamming issues onto to their desks. They want solutions but appear to be confused when you explain a quick cut solution to a problem. Do the ties cut off circulation to their brains or is it the tight grip the CEOs, CFOs and CAOs have on their groin areas?

Sure, over the years I became jaded and well, let's just say it, bitchy. A sane, happy person can only walk into a crappy work environment with a smiled slapped on her face for so long without actually calling out the dead wood.

Let's take one manager's comment, "You don't have any family. Rodney (the supervisor) does and he needs the time off. Why do you need time off at Christmas?" "Well, maybe because I've volunteered to work the past two Christmases and I have plans this year." And from that point on, I had plans ALL the time starting at 4:31pm and ending at 7:59am.

Or let's take the fact that "I can't afford to pay you overtime" while the other salaried staff was paid for every quarter hour worked. Needless to say, I was busy after work hours ALL the time.

What about the call from my manager whining to me how hard he was working on the budget forecast at home that particular week. When I finally took my first break at 2pm and went home for lunch, the manager and his wife were looking at the house for sale next door. Sure, he could have been taking a late lunch too. Sure.

That same guy was demoted a few years later because his marriage was falling apart because as the VP stated, "He was working 120 hours a week." Cough. No one standing at that meeting fell down but the eye contact among staff said it all. I wondered how the manager could possibly be working so hard...from home. My second thought was, why promote a salesman to a management position if he can't do the job in under 120 hours per week. And really, each week that only left the guy with 48 hours of free time. I'd say that time was used to sleep but that would be foolish.

Marty would come to work spewing stories of his "great" times. Could just be me but I expect more professionalism from my managers. I want them to be human but I don't need anymore friends. I'm going out on a limb here but I'm going to guess that his (second) wife didn't like the fact that he sat up drinking and gambling online all the time. He even admitted that he was in the doghouse because he was so drunk he fell into the closet doors and broke them both right off the hinges. Kids and their partying. Oh wait. Are you considered a kid when you're mid 40s? Maybe bratty kids shouldn't be trying to manage a multi-million dollar organization. Leave some things to the adults. I wonder if he is still alive? I still wonder who approved Marty's wife to print off wedding invitations on the corporate printer. Oh silly me, I'm sure corporate was reimbursed.

Oh but we're suppose to be sympathetic because he takes pills to wake him up, pills to make him happy and pills to make him sleep? All because he chose to drive drunk and killed his friend? Not in this lifetime. And he couldn't even take the medication properly. If you take your sleeper pill at 8am, you're going to fall asleep at work likely.

I had a supervisor who left work one morning because his wife and brother needed their propane tank filled up (incapable people I guess) and he didn't return to work until the next day. Pig in a python perhaps? Funny, I've filled my bbq propane tank, vehicle gas tank, washed the car and still had time to do oh, a million things that same day. Then again, this was the guy who ate two chocolate bars every day at 10am so maybe he crashed from the sugar high and just couldn't move any faster. I wonder if he is still alive?

Ok, so you're saying that those are just situations from my point of view. Fine. They are indeed, the facts, not just how I see them but as they really were. Minor? Ok, but it certainly didn't make me respect management. Tell me it's unfair of me to expect higher standards from management.

How about co-workers? Surely, they are more productive and conduct themselves accordingly. Employees shouldn't lie, cheat or steal, right? So why does management not want to hear when these things are happening? They don't know how to deal with it. The foreman is trying to look good to the supervisor. The supervisor is trying to impress the manager. The manager's only goal is to be promoted by the VP. The VP is accountable to the CEO and shareholders. Well, hell, I was a shareholder. Should they not listen to me?

I'm a happy, this life is all we have type person. I go into work each day with a smile and a "Good morning!" If you're not a morning person, get a night job. Seriously. I have no patience left for you moody, suck-the-life-out-of-me, non-morning people. I'm not asking for a kidney. You won't die by saying good morning to your co-workers. I promise. Eventually, I got tired of receiving grunts as a hello and just stop interacting with moody children.

There was a funny incident one morning when I came in and smiled and said, "Morning" to an acting manager. She quickly corrected me by saying, "It's GOOD morning!" to which I replied that my asthma was acting up the previous night so I tried to get some sleep sitting upright in a chair so that particular day was just a "morning" day. When you put people in positions of power, it DOES go to their head.

The funny part came when another manager and a co-worker walked into work together and they both replied to the "actor" with "morning". Because I was so done with this organization, I loudly and firmly corrected them by saying "It is GOOD morning!" because the acting manager did not correct them as she did me. They both looked at me like I was on glue. Yeah, I was popular. A GOOD employee can only take so much crap from people whose eyes are so brown...and I don't apple-polish. Blind management rubs my rhubarb.

I can't count how many times I looked up from my desk to see Bob sleeping at his desk. Yep, just sitting there sleeping at this desk. I'd call him and tell him that customers just pulled up so "You might want to look alive." Ok, not my job but really, let's TRY to look like we're a professional team. I got so fed up with Bob that I told the manager that she might want to wake Bob up from his slumber. Zero-tasking was his specialty and then he got paid to work overtime to catch up on what he didn't get done while he was sleeping. The manager replied, "I've never seen him sleeping at his desk." Oh, ok, your office is next to mine and you face Bob's desk but you've never noticed him sleeping on the clock. Wow, you must be so enthralled with securing your next promotion.

Here's some advice. When you know co-workers are stealing time or product, you do not tell management. Even if it is your job, it's not your job. Even if it is dividend money, it's your not your money. It's only your conscience. Nobody else cares. We sit in meeting after meeting listening to droning corporate bigwigs demand more productivity and defending cost-saving measures such as wage freezes and reduced hours but nobody cares about loss by theft. Oh, they account for that right off the hop. Ok. Makes me really want to work and interact with my dishonest and thieving co-workers. Gotcha. My mistake. I cared and thought theft would be frowned upon and cleaned up.

I remember one supervisor who hoarded all the refreshments that were left over from meetings, conferences and special events. Instead of leaving them out for staff and clients to enjoy, she squandered them away in her locked 4' x 6' cabinet in her locked-lights-give-me-a-migraine office. Without exaggerating she had three full shelves of corporate-bought food. I was in total shock of the stash this miserly woman was locking away. Sad part really was that after each snack, she'd need to go outside for a smoke. Remember when productivity was at an all-time high? When smoking was allowed in the workplace?

I had another supervisor who decided that for every one hour of overtime we worked, we deserved double or triple OT banked. Nice of her to give away corporate time. Shock doesn't even begin to describe my feelings on this one. I could either go above her head and snitch or I could quit. I took the quick route and quit. I have to be able to look myself in the mirror each day. My supervisor was the anointed one by all in that second floor corporate jungle. No one would have believed me. Realistically, our director likely knew all about it anyway. Surely she wasn't so blind not to see all that overtime wasn't legitimate and yet, she approved each and every hour. Funny how non-profits need so many government grants. I wonder what they do with all the money?

So yes, some of this is laughable, now, I suppose. Unfortunately. Other situations are not so easy to slough off. When a co-worker chose to give me false information in order for me to send off a fraudulent warranty claim, and I called him on it and he confessed, I'd had it. Having my supervisor roll his eyes at me was very telling. I have integrity and flat out refused to have anything more to do with that particular issue. Did I mention I was popular? Such a team player I am. I don't care who you are or who you think you are, when you expect me to lie for you and commit fraud for you, you are dead to me. And useless.

One time when I took a billing to my supervisor and pointed out that he overcharged the customer and explained the situation, I was overruled. I knew the truth. I knew that job inside and out. Why screw a repeat customer? In my mind, there's absolutely no need or reason to do that. Corporations make money. They need to choose to pull a profit legitimately. The suits in positions of power need to make certain that lower held chairs are not put in situations that make them choose to do the right thing or the fraudulent thing.

Another time in my wonderful corporate world of employment I was asked to "just move some time from here to here". Did my training allow me to do that? Sure. I transferred information on a daily basis. Was I authorized to do that? No. I stood in the doorway to my supervisor's office and stated, "I won't manipulate labour for your other staff. Or anyone. It's illegal." So I wasn't a good fit with that particular corporate environment because I didn't possess that certain backdoor mentality. Surely, not every corporation was so integrity-lacking.

Then there was the position I held where I just had too much financial information at my fingertips. Sometimes less is more. When your manager is allowing double-dipping and you are slapped in the face with it once a week, you better not have any integrity because you will need to overlook that too. Hopefully you realize you're in a no-win situation and find resolution within yourself. Beware of people who are scared of audits.

While every disappointing situation I've mentioned has affected me at some level, I was not ready for Ralph. I was in a new job, great position, successful corporation and I was ready and excited to get started on my new path! The supervisor was down to earth, knowledgeable and patient. I thought he was a little too friendly but hey, I was new and he was just trying to make me feel welcome. How can you fault someone for being pleasant in this day and age? A few days on the job and he was still introducing me to everyone. We went up into office so I could meet a couple guys I'd be working fairly close with. Press the flesh completed. The next thing my supervisor said was, "Don't worry. She left her whips and chains at home today." The other two guys didn't smile. Didn't laugh. The next thing I remember is walking down the long set of stairs. I guess the meeting was over. I have no idea what was discussed. I quit that job, leaving a complaint and being told Tom will take it to the department head. I said, "I don't care. I quit." I was young and I learned that the supervisor was not fired. That has corporate stink all over it. My complaint did nothing. Maybe I should have done more but to what end? I did what I could manage at the time. Too bad people who make policies don't realize that they have wives, daughters, mothers, etc who are in the workforce and can and are being treated this way? To get by, I know that every dog gets their day.

I realize people are flawed so it's understandable that people in business will be flawed. That I can handle. Just don't expect all of us to join you in your mission to destruct. For myself, I can't listen to the incessant jargon used by people trying to climb the corporate ladder and those trying to stay on the rungs. I was a great employee who was trying to hold up the ladders so it all didn't come crashing down. Sometimes I take on too much and while I don't particularly care to be the centre of attention, I'm usually the lightning rod and I have a couple resume stains which are really character strength.

In order to be successful in a corporation you're either an armchair general, too big to care about what's really going on at lower levels or you're a yes-man, willing to do whatever it takes to be successful. If you're an above-board, conscientious, law-abiding person, corporate will chew you up and spit you out if they can't turn you out. Corporations do not empower you. Get your own ducks in a row moving forward for yourself. Get back to your own core values. Let them peel back the onion themselves. I hate to break their crayons but they don't colour clearly anyhow. Corporate bullying should not be tolerated. Shame on the bullies. Any corporate head who has a big enough brass ball needs to hard-stop the bs.

When it comes to corporate bs, the juice isn't worth the squeeze. The bird is worth the flip though.

And so today is Boss's Day...

June 19, 2016

My Father's Legacy

It's Father's Day again. This is my 7th year that I won't be celebrating with my father. He passed on in his 80th year on October 31, 2009.

I think of him and miss him every day. Some days it feels like he was just here bugging me yesterday. Other days it feels like he's been gone for longer than he was here.

The other day I was reading my Twitter friend's timeline. He was suggesting some good Father's Day presents. I actually have some of the gifts he suggests for ahem, men. One specific tweet caught my eye and tugged strong on my heart strings. The Father's Legacy - Your Life Story in Your Own Words - A Lasting Heritage for Your Children.

Seven months after my mom passed away unexpectedly at 61 years old, I bought my own father that journal on August 4, 2000. I know the date because I'm annoyingly organized and I wrote it on inside the book. I also addressed the journal, "TO THE BEST DAD EVER". Keep in mind, I was 31 years old at the time so I wasn't just another little snot-nosed runt thinking my dad was the best. Ever. Is so.

After reading that tweet, I brought out the journal and starting reading it again. Of course I was again bowled over with emotion.

You see, my dad was a strong man. Independent. Hard-working. Giving. Hilarious. He was the infinite Patriarch of this, his tribe. He was The Rock, long before THE Rock was a thing. Sorry, Mr. Johnson.

Mostly, dad was a man of few emotionally-fueled words. In certain company, he spoke when needed, made his point and then listened to the drivel of conversation that followed.

The copy of A Father's Legacy that I have is 208 pages. My father put pen to paper on only four of those pages. 53 characters if we're counting. That is typical Bruiser. Doing things on his terms. A physically towering mountain of man with no need for wordiness. If he were reading this right now, he'd be asking me why I haven't made my point yet.

Dad's longest entry in the journal was a recollection of his first few vehicles. What he doesn't say in the legacy is that the 2-door Chevy Coupe ended up on it's roof in a ditch on a sharp curve on a country gravel road back home. I remember that story because it was so funny having my dad vividly explain to me how small the windows were in that car and how difficult it was to climb out. He was thinner then but still a giant of a man. After that crash he upgraded from the coupe to a Harley Davidson motorcycle and more escapades ensued.

 My dad's sense of humour really hit me on page 168. What is the strangest thing you have ever seen? Pops wrote, "Some of my kids". As much as I find this hysterical every time I read it, I shed as many tears as I do laughs. When you miss someone you love so much, tears and laughter are synonymous.

My dad always did what he wanted to do. For nine years, I could not pressure him into completing the journal. His terse journal-ling is just one example of how father really does know best. Initially, when I read this journal, I had wished so hard that he had filled out every single line on every single page. With time, I've decided that dad left me with just enough. I believe if he were here right now with me, he'd say, "I didn't need to finish the journal. My legacy is some of my kids."

I love you, dad. You are still the best dad, ever. xo

May 12, 2016

Miniature Trough, Big Love

I bought this miniature "galvanized" trough at my local TSC Store. 
It is actually a gift card holder. 

I chose to showcase my Crackerjack Marigold Seedlings in it.

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