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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Fleeting Tree Blossoms

Hi friends,

We had a reasonably good winter with hardly any snow and the rainfall seemed less than normal too.


But now it is Spring and I'd like to get in the garden. 

However it has been raining cats and dogs!

How is the weather where you live?



 Manure and topsoil was purchased and bit of potting soil for the container plants. I also purchased some pansies to plant and a new patio umbrella stands at the ready but none of it has been used yet.


 
I hope the rains will stop soon though I don't complain too loudly. 

On the few nice days we've had without rain, I hardly had an opportunity to get out to take photos of the tree blossoms.  I hurriedly snapped a few once or twice while out running errands and happened to have my camera along.

I have so few photos of the tree blossoms compared to previous years.  The blossoms came out very early this year but with all the rain falling it hasn't been the best time to take photos and I was busy on the few really nice days we've had.


I am glad that I did manage to capture a few tree blossoms late last week on different errands around the city.

If I had more time I would go to another neighbourhood or two and capture some blossoms where I know they have lovely trees.  But time is limited right now and because a lot of the blossoms started early, many of them are already gone though a few new ones are coming out. Such a strange season this year. Or should I say, stranger than usual as  the weather has been getting unusual all around the globe for some years now.


I hope you are all enjoying good weather wherever you live. 

It looks like a movie was being shot on this street in the eastern part of town. I love the old building!

I have also been enjoying my new pressure cooker. So far I've made vegetable soup and now I've made some navy bean soup. It was sure thrilling to wait for only half an hour to have fully cooked (and softened) navy bean and vegetable soup! This sure beats the overnight soak or 1 hour quick soak method. First I put the navy beans in the pot just covered with water. I let those cook for about 15 minutes before I added a colourful array of veggies. In this case I purchased a bag of cleaned mixed veggies from the produce market. You know the kind they clean because they don't want to throw it away? I purchased one large bag and used about 1/3 of it. I chopped the veggies more finely in my food processor.  I didn't mince them too finely just gave them a coarse chop and put them in with the beans along with some herbs. Another 15 minutes and the soup was great. Next time I make soup it will likely be vegetables and some meat. If you like Italian food I think the pressure cooker would be ideal for making chicken cacciatore.  Well I'm off to enjoy some navy bean soup right now for a spot of late lunch.

This photo was taken right downtown at Hastings & Granville.

I will be joining up with Mosaic Monday & Our World Tuesday this week.
Our World is a very fun meme which I've participated in for years already. How time flies!
Mosaic Monday is a new to me meme, hosted by my neighbour in the far east of Canada.


Enjoy your week!

Mosaic Monday



Thursday, March 26, 2015

Remembrance of Pretty Skies

These sky shots were taken near my home about 14 months ago.

I haven't had a chance to post them yet.


I didn't realize until later that there were numerous birds above. I think these might be seagulls but they are a little far away for me to really be sure.



The sun was setting quickly as it was late in the day. 

I thought the sky was particularly pretty that evening.



Linking with Skywatch Friday this week.
Click the link and enjoy some gorgeous skies from around the globe!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Frugal Day

Hello friends,

It is now officially Spring but the warm, sunny weather hasn't really arrived. We've been getting buckets of rain since late last week. I can't remember much before that, lol.  After hearing today that they have had another snowstorm in Eastern Canada (the third storm this week!) and that parts of the USA are also experiencing fresh snow storms, one can hardly complain about rain.



But this kind of weather does bring with it the problems of never knowing exactly how to dress. It can be a bit chilly when it rains. It can also be hot if the rain decides to stop and Mr. Sunshine pays an unexpected visit. I've found this weather makes it rather chilly in my home. I had to turn the heat on last week and I don't even turn the heat on much during the colder winter months  At the same time, it can get muggy indoors.  So yesterday and today I've opened the doors for fresh air. I think after the winter months, the place needs a good airing.

So with all this back and forth weather, I'm finding I need to eat something hot and nourishing. Today I had the help of a new  kitchen gadget which I recently purchased on line.

For years I've been trying to get used to making meals ahead in a slow cooker but I could never get comfortable with it.  I am too impatient to wait so long for food to cook.  Inevitably I would put the food in the cooker too late and it was never fully cooked and ready by dinner time.  I also could not get used to the idea of putting food in the cooker early in the day and leaving it to cook all day while I was out.  It just made me nervous. This is thanks to my mom who had some very firm ideas about electricity and safety issues. Even though a slow cooker is made to be left all day I simply couldn't do it.


 This is the exact model and colour I've purchased though it comes in many other choices

I've always thought a pressure cooker would be more my style because it cooks a lot faster. However I remember the old fashioned pressure cookers could be very dangerous. Recently I found one on line that looked easy to use and so I bought it.  I was fortunate to buy it on sale because I never purchase anything at full price.  It is an electric pressure cooker and it is very easy to close the vent (to increase pressure) and open the vent to release steam.

The cooker arrived last week and I immediately washed the inside pot and cooked the night's meal in it.  The roast and vegetables  turned out very moist and tasty.  But the cooker took two or three times longer to cook than I  was expecting. I was experimenting with the machine and I suppose every time I opened the lid to to test the meat, the machine lost a lot of heat.  Once the cover is replaced and the machine turned back on you must wait for the pressure and heat in the pot to be raised again. Once I know exactly how long to cook things this won't be a problem. The cooker does come with a few recipes but mostly it is for stuff I do not make. You also have an option to purchase a cook book of more things to make in the pressure cooker.

Today I used the machine for the second time and made a simple vegetable soup. This experiment was much more satisfactory. Cooking time was only 15 minutes and could probably be reduced by chopping the vegetables even finer and not cooking them until they are extra soft.  But I was extremely happy with the results I achieved and intend to make the soup again soon.

Ingredients for the soup:  two very large hothouse tomatoes, half an eggplant, 1 medium red pepper, 1 medium head of cabbage, 1 leek and 1 handful of fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon oregano and 1 teaspoon of basil. I added water to just cover the vegetables and cooked for 15 minutes. After it was done the soup had a very nice flavour and didn't require any salt or pepper. I ate several bowls and saved some for tomorrow. I think I will be making this more often. I also had a left over chorizo sausage from last night's dinner so sliced it up and put it in with one of my servings. I bought the vegetables yesterday and tallied up the cost.  It wasn't exactly inexpensive because the head of cabbage was $3.50 (I used half).  Total $7.80 for 6 servings = $1.30 per serving. When you consider the cost of soup in the restaurant these days, I think that this soup was very economical. It will be even more economical in the weeks that vegetables are on sale.


I also had a great shop at the local pharmacy. Some of you know that I earn loyalty points for shopping at my pharmacy. Now and then there are promotions where you can earn points more quickly. Today I went shopping and intended to use about half of my points. It meant I got $100 "free" purchases. I bought staples like paper towel, garden garbage bags, laundry soup, dish detergent, etc. I also got some snack foods and a few items I wouldn't otherwise purchase (Whey Protein Powder, Perrier Water, hair ties and more).  I also bought some things on clearance. altogether I paid about $6.00 in tax for $100 worth of goods. The rest I got with my points.  I more than filled my shopping buggy and 2 more over the shoulder bags. I only have to walk 2 blocks so it isn't that bad of a journey with a heavy load.  The saleslady told me I could actually purchase $200 worth of goods but there is no way I could carry that amount of stuff home. I only really needed milk but not just yet and toilet paper. I don't think I could store another $100 of toilet paper in my small laundry closet so I wait for another day to use the points.


I ran out of printer ink the week before last. I try not to use the printer that often to save on the use of ink. Mainly I use it to print coupons for the pharmacy promotions to earn points and get things for free. You need printed coupons for them to scan though I overheard one of the workers today saying that soon they would get an app for the mobile phones. That means I won't have to print their coupons any more but from time to time I do need to print other things. I managed to find 2 cartridges of black ink. The normal price is about $25 each but today were purchased for under $20 each plus I got a $10 coupon to use toward anything I want in future. That made the cartridges about $15. each (a full $10 off each one). Soon I will return to the store and purchase a coloured cartridge and use the $10 off coupon since I don't really need much else at this technology store.

Altogether it was a very frugal & fruitful day. 

Also earlier this week I managed to save half the cost of a patio umbrella. I was not looking forward to buying anew patio umbrella because I just purchased one two summers ago or a little over a year ago.  Then last Fall (I think it was the Fall) we had a rain storm and my umbrella got destroyed. I was disappointed because it was rather new but I was also grateful that no damage was done to the patio table.

I asked my brother to go shopping and  purchase a new patio umbrella for me.  He was able to find  one umbrella left in the green colour I requested.  Somehow he managed to get it for less than the stated price due to some store error in the price tag. On top of that he was able to save an additional $10 due to some rules about pricing.  He used to work in retail many years ago and knows all the rules of shopping and paying. Due to his knowledge and persistence he has saved me a lot of money each year.
My patio umbrella ended up costing just over $20 and tax rather than $40 and tax.


I think that is a great savings!

A good thing because I need a lot for the garden right now.

If you are watching your funds, I hope you too are able to get some great deals to help you through the month.

Have a wonderful week!


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Counting Zebras

I've been posting a lot of wild birds critters this past few weeks. The wildlife photos were all taken in Kenya, East Africa. 

You might be interested in having a look at the other posts

here 
here 
here 
here 
and


 



Aren't these zebras real beauties?

I managed to see all the ones in these photos at Lake Nakuru National Park located on the southern end of the City of Nakuru. On my day there it looked like many locals were enjoying the park.

How wonderful that this park is virtually located in city limits and yet there is a wonderful array of wildlife.


Check in with Eileen at Saturday's Critters for more awesome critters.


Saturday's Critters

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Skies




I found these photos in my archives.

These sky shots were taken in Spring 2014 as I went on a long walk to the grocery store.

I thought trees were particularly pretty that day and look especially attractive against a blue sky.

It was a lovely, peaceful day.

Linking up with Skywatch Friday today.

Have a look at the link for more gorgeous skies from around the globe.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, March 16, 2015

March Update on Outreach in Kenya

I've been struggling with very low energy levels since just before Christmas and  even the barest minimum of  'to dos' has seemed so much at times.  This has caused me to get very behind in a lot of things.

Now I am feeling a little better.  My energy seems to be increasing.  Warmer temperatures and more frequent days of sunlight help. I started taking Vitamin D awhile back but haven't been too consistent about taking it  for the short time I did take it it seemed to help.

There are a few things I continue to do even when the energy levels are low.

One thing that I never really stop doing is blogging, sometimes tweeting. Here is a cute little carton I came across on line about the priority social media has become in our lives.


I am not on Instagram, Facebook or Tumbler but in addition to posting on my blog I also post to Google + on occasion.  I can't imagine how people find the time to be on all the different social media as well as keep up with other things in their lives. Keeping up with our own blogs daily or even every few days, takes a fair bit of time.  We have to find time to take the photos, select and edit them, upload them, then visit and comment on other blogs. I'm always amazed at people who get hundreds of visitors and comments yet manage to visit other blogs on a fairly regular basis.  Then of course there are those that have hundreds of visitors to their blog complete with comments who never seem to visit anyone else's blogs or if they do, they never comment. 

I am not exactly sure why I was so extra low on energy for so long.  Now am in a bit of whirl of activity to "catch up".  With Spring having arrived I am also thinking about what needs to be done in the garden.  There is always the Fall and Winter debris to clean. I don't do this in the Fall due to all the rain and cold.  In Spring I am often late to the garden and never seemed to find the rhythm. Perhaps that will change some day but for right now I just manage as best I can.  I'm also planning on a visit to see my mom and so I'm putting a care package together. That always involves some planning and preparation and this month is no exception.

Despite lower energy levels, I also never fail to keep up with the  missions in Kenya.  The people's needs there are so great and needs don't take a rest.  I do my best to try to help the people and bring awareness to others in hopes they may also want to help.  In all the years I've been doing this, it hasn't been easy getting others involved but I keep trying.  I truly greatly appreciate those of you  who do stop and lend a hand. The little we can do means so much to another who is burdened by their load.

Several weeks ago I wrote about a young mom who had to be rushed to hospital and ended up losing her baby before it had come to full term. That was a very sad situation especially since the young mom not only lost her baby but she had to remain in hospital for weeks after because she didn't have the funds to pay the medical bills.

I am happy to report that she is now home with her family and can now start her real journey of grieving and healing. Yes, that means while she was in hospital her unborn child was buried.  One can only imagine how difficult this was to deal with on so many levels.  It also meant her other young child and her husband were without her presence in the home for weeks on end as they struggled to cover the medical bills.  They were feeling very low in spirit during this time.

My blogging friends Joy and John, Jan and Regina, and other friends in Kenya who organized several fund-raisers  helped to get her home.  I especially want to thank Joy who I met through blogging through our shared love of crochet.  It was through her very kind efforts to raise awareness of this desperate situation that really helped.

Kindness is so refreshing in this very busy world where people often turn the other way after hearing about someone needs; someone they don't know and who lives so very far away.  Sometimes we become immune to someone's desperate needs when we are bombarded daily through television, internet, social media and newspaper.

I realize too that there are many competing good causes.  Sometimes people have limited means and their our own needs have to take priority. It takes intention and work not to become cold to the desperate situations around the world.

So again a sincere thanks goes out to Joy, John, Jan and Regina for their kindness.  I pray that the goodness you have put out there for this mom will be returned to you in good measure soon.


Kenyan flower ~ Sending you all a little green in honour of Saint Patrick

In February I wrote about another humanitarian food aid mission to the Pokot people in northern Kenya.  You can read more about that mission here.  Then last week some of my Kenyan friends went on yet another humanitarian mission to the Pokot people in the northern part of Kenya.  This time they went to an entirely different region which was even more isolated than where they usually minister to the Pokot people.  On the team's return journey the terrible terrain was too much for the SUV they had borrowed from their church and they were stranded far from home where things were very expensive.

When my friends go on voluntary missions they basically have to raise the food donations and fund their own journey.  The team leader has to sign a form to acknowledge responsibility for the vehicle when they go on food aid missions and that means there is no help from the church when things go wrong.  In any case, the churches my friends attend are not like the big, prosperous churches in America.  Their congregations are made  up of hard working humble people who are mostly eking out a living through small scale farming.  They grow their own corn and vegetables and if they are fortunate they have a few chickens, goats or possibly a cow or two for milk.  They have very little in the way of extras and cold, hard cash.
 
The mission was to an area of Kenya that is very hot and dry and you cannot grow anything (sorry though the  precise name escapes me it is north of a place called Chemolingot). The locals raise goats and camels as their means of sustenance.  In places like, as in most other difficult to access communities in other countries, food and necessities are incredibly expensive because of the cost and time involved in importing the food.  Fixing the car was also very expensive and  not very straightforward.

Photo Credit:  Jonah, Missions of Hope


Mechanic help had to be summoned from about 6 hours away. The insides of the care were taken apart and the mechanic returned to Eldoret with some of the parts.  The team members had to wait until the next day for the mechanic to return with the car parts.  The team members had a real awakening of just how hard it is for the people in the area as they said they have never seen such high costs in all the places they have travelled.

Thankfully the car worked after the mechanic brought the car parts back and attended to the vehicle.  The cost of repairs was great and it was urgent.  The team had a very long journey home and arrived home at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning.

 These are a few photos of the hungry children that were fed on this mission.


The children are enjoying bread and liquid refreshment in these photos.

Photo Credit:  Jonah, Missions of Hope

Photo Credit:  Jonah, Missions of Hope


The team members also left behind food items and clothing for the people.

Friends, these needs are very real and the hunger is very difficult to experience or to see.

It is what drives my friends to help and what drives me to assist them.

Photo Credit:  Jonah, Missions of Hope


You see the people in these isolated areas of Kenya are literally starving.  

When drought comes they are hardest hit and commodities are out of their financial means. 

My friends are not well to do.

They too  live close to the edge economically.

But they know that the people they are helping live even closer to the edge.


Kenyan cactus plant.

I want to welcome all of my new followers.

If any of you have an interest in Africa and Kenya and you want to find out how to help with the missions needs, please get in touch (email on profile page). I mostly help in Kenya where we try to feed the hungry or look after their medical needs.

Also, if you are travelling to Kenya soon and want to take a missions team with food aid or medical helps,
let me know.  I can put you in touch with people who could use your help.  If you are going alone or with a friend, and you have enough funds to pool, even that would be a great help.

Linking with Our World Tuesday

Have a great week.
Happy St. Patrick's Day to those of you who celebrate.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Rhinos in the Park


These huge rhinos live in Lake Nakuru National Park, in Nakuru, Kenya.

The park is best know for it's thousands, sometimes millions of flamingos. I've posted pictures of flamingos on this blog but my photos do not really do justice to the sheer  number of flamingos in the park. The sight of all the pink birds is just spectacular.




But there are many spectacular things to see in the park and one of them is rhinos. The park is home to about 25 black rhinos and about 70 white rhinos (these numbers are a bit outdated but the population likely hasn't increased all the much).  There are many predators in the park including lions, cheetahs and leopards. When I was there I was lucky enough to see a lion but no cheetah or leopards. Leopards are very difficult to spot no matter where you go. I have been fortunate enough to see cheetahs in the wild but not at Lake Nakuru National Park.


Lake Nakuru is a small, shallow, alkaline body of water which is located on the southern edge of Nakuru.  The waters levels of the lake have been changing quite dramatically in wet and dry seasons in recent times. The reasons are likely multiple:  watershed land conversion to intensive crop production, urban development, industrial waste dumping and climate changes. This is having a negative effect on the flamingo population and no doubt other animals too. This area is heavily dependent on the tourism that the wildlife brings and parks like Lake Nakuru National Park are vital to the protection of animal stocks that are in decline.

Shockingly in 2014, blatant rhino poaching in the park resulted in 5 rhino deaths. Twenty (20) park rangers and several key staff were reassigned for failure to protect the rhinos. It is pity these staff were simply reassigned rather than suspended and investigated. Sadly, I think it is a symptom of a much larger problem in Kenya.

If you appreciate wild animals and want to see them preserved for generations, please give generously to a Rhino conservation fund near you. 

 Joining in with Mosaic Monday this week.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all of you!

Mosaic Monday

Friday, March 13, 2015

Nature Reserve




This majestic Waterbuck was standing right near the gate as we entered the park. He was so large and regal looking.




This wild beast is an African Water Buffalo and he was perturbed. Before I got to him, I was watching 2 male tourists from afar taunting the buck and getting far too close. I really thought the buck would charge them. Stupid tourists get killed every year because they get out of their cars and get too close to the wildlife.
                                                                                                              


There were so many types of wild game in the park. I don't know the  names of a lot of them but looked on line and think I have them correctly identified.

A lot of different types of gazelle reside in the park. A gazelle is any type of the many antelope species in the genus Gazella. I learned that the word gazelle derives from the Persian word "Ghazal" which means "elegant and quick ".

Impala, eating in the bushes.

I enjoy taking photos of animals that watch me closely.

I keep my respectful distance.


(Defassa) Waterbuck feasting in the forest.

I think this one is called Thomson's gazelle. They depend on short grasses for sustenance.

Impala


I wanted to get a little closer to the water birds. You are probably not supposed to get out of the car and walk around.  The lions are in the forest but I kept my eyes open. though I am sure I couldn't outrun a lion. The rhinos, various mammals, baboons and zebras are in a different area.

  

Friends taking photos.


Breathtaking views from the clifftop.

I love looking down from high above.

I've always been fascinated by zebras and this baby zebra was so cute.

Zebras always seem to quietly & peacefully go about their business.

This little guy was very curious and watched me as I snapped away.

See how well camouflaged these animals are. I think these are young Waterbuck or Impala Antelope.

Hiding in the bushes on the way to the cliffs was this baby Dik dik. Poor thing. I think it lost it's mom.

Joining in with host Eileen at   Saturday's Critters.

Saturday's Critters

African Music & Happenings