Tuesday, April 14, 2020

What Do We Do in These Times?

Hello friends and fellow bloggers,

I trust you had a good Easter weekend and found things for which to be grateful and happy in this unique and somewhat trying time. Some people cope better than others. Introverts and people who don't mind spending time alone probably cope better than others who like to be around a lot of different people all the time.

Taken mid-April 2020

Personally, I am finding the quiet and curtailment of activities easy enough to deal with and I am not going stir crazy.  I am keeping myself occupied and in good spirits.  I think it is a combination of being an introvert and also a by product of my faith in God and his plans for my future.

I am also finding that I do not have as much free time as one would think. I'm keeping busy enough just trying to find the healthy foods I want at a good price, keeping up with food and house essentials which are usually not at a good price and cooking and finding creative ways to use what is on hand or what is available.  Then of course there is the time it takes to cook and prepare for meals and snacks every day and all the clean up afterwards. I think the clean up part is the most time consuming and some days I am more on top of it than others.  These basic tasks are enough to keep me busy but of course there is all the other household stuff to be done, loved ones and friends to check in with, and keeping on top of health and other needs. These activities are not really any different from what I would ordinarily do, but for some reason they seem to be taking more of my time.

I also do a bit of reading, a bit of planting or repotting of plants and binge watching Netflix or movies and other shows I recorded from the television. I am happy to say that my sleep has actually improved.  I now mostly sleep through the night and since I no longer have to be out, I can sleep until my body says "wake up".   In between I am doing "projects".  Just a little at a time as the ones I really need to get to are not fun projects and they require a lot of  thought and attention to detail.  At some point soon I also have to plant the gardens.  A relative promised to bring some top soil for me this weekend so it will likely be another week or two before I get to gardening.  I am a little bit behind my hoped for schedule but that is okay.  I'll likely have more time this summer to tend to the gardens if we continue to be restricted in our day to day activities. So far that seems to be the direction in which things are headed.

This was my community plot at the end of March 2019

I am also keeping busy with the Kenyan missions. The needs continue to be great especially during this time of Covid-19. God promises that we can put all our anxieties on him and it has kept us going through the challenging times. I  always envisioned  getting others involved in helping out in Kenya with the very very needy in the small villages.  So from time to time I try to encourage others to get involved.  If any of you are inclined to help I would be happy to hear from you. You can reach me with questions, comments or donations at the email located at the top right corner of this blog.

When others make an appeal for my help I like to know what the most important needs are and how much it costs.  I've provided a short summary of this information for you.  There are always other needs in addition to these key ones so feel free to give for other purposes (fertilizers, medicines, help with school tuition, food for orphans and widows etc.).  There are always other needs but the ones I've listed are the key ones.  Just a brief note about school tuition fees. Students and their parents paid tuition and school fees at the beginning of 2020 but shortly thereafter the schools were closed to in person attendance. However most students have been assigned homework and in some cases submit their homework on line for teachers to review. This is not  possible for the very poorest who have no internet access and the government hasn't yet put a plan in place though they said they are considering what to do for the students in this situation. In the meantime, in another short while I think the schools will want to collect tuition again since learning and services have been provided albeit in a different manner.

Currently the key needs in the Kenyan missions are:  monthly diabetes medications ($60 Canadian) for Ernest, hospital provided vitamins ($35 Canadian) for Ernest & nutritious foods ($45 Canadian) to help keep his  health stable.  Many Kenyans have very poor nutrition and when they get sick the results can be very bad due to an unhealthy body and weaker immune system.  Eunice is still in hospital and also requires a special diet.  Each month the cost of the food provided by the hospital is $225 Canadian.  Medications to regulate her blood pressure and to thin her blood cost a combined $80 Canadian each month.  Last but not least, we need seeds and fertilizer to plant corn and a few other crops very soon before the long rains arrive (the rains help grow the crops). Corn or maize is a staple of the Kenya diet and they eat the corn and they also mill the corn to get maize flour to make a staple dish called ugali.  The planting costs are about $100 Canadian.  The harvest will help feel 3 households for 1 year.  A lot of people still don't know what ugali is especially if they have not travelled to East Africa. You can see ugali in the photo below. The way you eat it is you take a piece of it and work it with your fingers then you scoop some cooked kale or meat.
This is ugali made with white corn flour.

Please keep the nation of Kenya in your prayers in general. The government has imposed a curfew rather than a strict lock down.It is difficult to have a strict lock down when the majority of the population ekes out a living on a day to day basis.  Even the curfew and other measures put in place like social distancing, masks on public transport etc. are making it very difficult for the people to earn a living and to have daily bread. If you can help in any material way, your help would be a huge blessing and very possibly save lives. This is not an exaggeration.

If you like you can leave a comment telling me what you are doing with your time and whether you have more time for things, less time or about the same. Take care and please continue to keep yourself safe.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Happy Passover and Happy Easter

Hi friends and fellow bloggers

I love this time of year. It's a time when the cold of winter starts to vanish and the warmth of spring begins to appear. It is the promise and the hope of better days ahead.

I am not enamoured of summer which is the season most people in the northern hemisphere enjoy.  It's far too hot for me. But give me good old Spring with all it's new growth and blossoms, bright sunlight and longer days and I'm in heaven on earth.

I missed the blooming of cherry blossoms but more blossoms will be out in the next few weeks. Hopefully I will be able to go out and capture some. Right now though we are pretty much discouraged from going anywhere except to do essential grocery shopping or to pick up pharmaceutical needs. I am also trying to spread out my grocery store forays so I don't go out as often and that means we go without a few things here and there for a little while longer.

Indoors I've been keeping busy. Surprisingly I haven't been reading that much. I've only finished one book in the several weeks of social distancing. It's a book about an American expat in Paris. I've read a few books of this type but this is my favourite one so far. I found it very touching; especially the final chapters. Check it out if you can.

Our local libraries are completely closed until further notice so we can only borrow from the digital library. My latest book is a cosy murder mystery called The Long Quiche Goodbye. I know a lot of my followers enjoy cosy murder mysteries.

Since it will be Friday tomorrow I thought a nice sunrise photo would be in order. This was taken from my balcony on Thursday morning.

I haven't been able to get out and garden yet as it has been too cold for me. I hope to get out soon but time will tell. In the meantime I love to see plants that come out whether you prepare anything or not.

Black Eyed Susan poking their way through

Solomon's Seal

I close my post with a few photos from April of 2019. These beautiful blossoms lined the streets where I went to hear an Easter concert at a church near a friend's home. Lovely blossoms like this never fail to bring me joy.

I want to wish you and your household a Happy Passover (April 8-16, 2020) 
and a Happy Easter (April 12-14, 2020).

May the peace of God rule over your hearts and minds.

(Joining in with Skywatch Friday this week).

Friday, March 27, 2020

Solo Hummingbird

I  happened to look out the window when a little hummingbird was hovering above a bush on my property. It stayed for a short while and I was able to get a few photos though not close ups.  I didn't have time to properly focus, zoom or steady my phone before the little bird flew off.

One day I hope to put out the hummingbird feeder and maybe more hummingbirds will visit.

As you can see the sky is grey and we've had rain. 
I just looked at the weather forecast and we're supposed have rain for the entire week.
It kills my hope of getting photos of the spring tree blossoms in sunshine-y weather.
I guess I can make do with the photos I've taken in other years. 

Joining in with Skywatch Friday.

Keep safe.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

How I am Coping

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all faring as well as can be expected during these challenging and unique times around the globe.

Since I last wrote a blog post I have had a relative visit.  She has now returned to her sisters and is trying to get home to Alberta. I've been coping with a cold. I would say this is the 3rd time I've had a cold over the winter though maybe it never really left me. I'm just taking all precautions and getting lots of fluid and rest. I haven't felt like doing much so I've only really had the energy for the basic household tasks, being host to my cousin and a bit of reading here and there. I have not done any gardening though I did repot a number of plants and start some seedlings.  The seedlings are not looking that healthy as they seemed to have sprouted way too fast and are too tall and wispy.

I read two books and enjoyed them both.

I only have 2 more library books in my stash.
All libraries are closed indefinitely and we can only borrow digital books for the foreseeable future.

In my part of the world virtually everything is now closed except essential services. For most people that means they can access grocery shopping and the pharmacy.  When  I go out in my part of the city things are pretty quiet as all the usual hangouts like restaurants, cafes, bars/pubs, libraries, community centers and churches are closed.

Since most things were closed now for a week, I've only been out twice and that was to do a bit of grocery shopping  last Friday and again on Sunday.  Both times I was looking for ground beef and toilet paper. I didn't find either on Friday and today I found some ground beef but it was too expensive. I usually buy everything on sale.  I also didn't find any toilet paper. Though they are limiting quantities per customer, they still had run out. It doesn't help that I went out shopping close to closing hour.

Tomorrow we will go out with the car to purchase gas which has reduced in price by about 35 cents Canadian per litre. I will also look for ground beef and toilet paper at some of the larger stores like Superstore or Walmart. Hopefully one of these stores will have what I want.  Then again maybe not due to their high volumes of customers.

Grocery stores are now closed about 3 hours earlier and they open 1 hour earlier for the elderly and the disabled. The earlier closing hours are supposed to enable the staff to restock the shelves.

Last Friday when I went out I had some problems with other customers who were not displaying appropriate social distancing. I was standing what I thought was an appropriate distance from others in the line up to pay. Others took my distance as an opportunity to get in line ahead of me and this created a minor issue. I do not take lightly to these kinds of behaviors and I insisted on keeping my place in line.  However,  I noted today that the same grocery store has now put in place clear markings as to where people are to stand when queuing.  Today's experience was much better though it is clear I am going to have to get to the grocers much earlier if I am ever hoping to buy what I'd like to buy.

I am very appalled by these kinds of bad behaviors but from what I've been seeing in news clips from around the world, my city residents don't seem to have the monopoly on bad behaviors of various kinds. Thankfully I have also heard about a lot of compassionate behaviors on display.  But most people still don't take social distancing seriously and don't appreciate that community transmission of Covid-19 is what the authorities are now trying to prevent. It means governments and health authorities have to bring in strict controls and fines if people don't heed their recommendations of the past few weeks.  I am now beginning to see strict controls coming into place both here at home and abroad.

We all have to adjust and do our part to understand that we show our care and compassion for others through social distancing and using this time of quiet to check in with those we love. We also have to up our game when it comes to hygiene and learn what to do and what not to do when out and about.  Many people are suffering anxiety at this time for various reasons and the Coronavirus-19 pandemic has made their suffering worse. There are so many, many things being affected by the virus. It is important to for each of us take care of ourselves and our loved ones as best we can. 

Where we can help others without endangering oneself  that is highly desirable.  This may look like phone calls or face time to the elderly or with loves ones near and far. In my building one young couple put up a sign with their phone number volunteering to shop for those that need assistance. Usually this means buying something for another and leaving it at their door so as to keep an appropriate distance.  We also need to keep ourselves healthy physically, spiritually and emotionally.  We can nourish our bodies with nutritious food and in some cases supplements, make sure we are breathing deeply rather than holding our breath which we tend to do when we get stressed, drinking lots of water and resting and sleeping.  We can also do some light exercise indoors or outdoors if it is safe. Emotionally and spiritually we can benefit from prayer, good thoughts, positive meditations and soothing music or music that makes one happy. I wish each of you good health and peace through these trying times.

Monday, March 9, 2020

My World of Hail

I was preparing to go to the community garden plot on Saturday because we had a sunny day. 
However we had a snowy hail fall down fast and furious that afternoon.
It looked quite eerie and the sky was quite dark.
The birds were flapping crazily but they quickly disappeared.

I couldn't do any outdoor gardening but I managed to repot a number of indoor plants that were very much in need of it.

I've done a lot of reading over the cold, darker months. These are the books I've completed to date.

Out of the completed books I most enjoyed A Trial in Venice, Pure Land, The Shogun's Queen and The Goldfinch.
You can learn more about each book by clicking on the titles if you are interested.
I'm currently reading The Last Concubine (the 2nd in the series written by Lesley Downer), Wardrobe Wake Up and The Orphan Thief.

Linking up with Our World Tuesday.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Delicate Blossoms

Despite all the rain the blossoms are coming out in full force. 
It's a bit hard to see them with all the gray in the sky.

I played with the effect (called "Rouge") here for a little variety.

These photos were taken on Thursday, March 5th, another very rainy day.
We are expecting a bit of sunshine this weekend.

Linking up with Skywatch Friday.

Enjoy your weekend.

Monday, March 2, 2020

My World on the First Tuesday of March 2020

Hi everyone,

The few days of sunshine are but a memory and we are back to rain. Today as I walked to a hospital to get some x-rays done it was raining heavily. I was very surprised and pleased to see a few bright blossoms along the way.

Joining up with Our World Tuesday

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Frugal Food Shopping and Cost Comparisons

Those of you who have followed my blog for a long time know that I make a good effort to live frugally and find a bargain for virtually everything.

In this new year I am experimenting with going farther afield (on public transit) to buy good quality food rather than just my local grocer.  Last week I shopped at a place called Young Bros. Produce which is across town on the way to the University of British Columbia. It was recommended by a neighbour in one our hallway chats.  As it happens I have shopped here a few times before but it's been many years since I was last there and I did not know the store by name.

The photo below will show my produce haul.  It cost $24 Canadian  ($18 US, $27.50 Australian, 16.80 , 2026 Japanese Yen and 1840 Kenyan shillings).  I found the prices to be quite low compared to most other places in the city and the produce is fresh. All of this produce would cost two or two and half times more if I bought it at my local grocer.  The downsides are that the store is very crowded with hardly any room to maneuver and they only take cash.

I bought about a quart of white mushrooms, 2 large English cucumbers, 2 large zucchini (courgettes), 1 small bunch of spinach, 6 small red peppers (capsicum), 1 big crown of broccoli, 1 small bag of green beans, 6 medium to large bananas, 9 small blood oranges, 6 navel oranges. All this cost $24 Canadian dollars.  I still have a small bunch of spinach, some red peppers, broccoli, courgette and green beans left to use this week but am all out of fruits.

Yesterday (Wednesday)  I tried a different place, called Persia.  They have several locations in the city and have very good reviews. 

This haul came to just over $34 Canadian ( $25.50 US dollars,$38.84 Australian dollars,  just over 23 , 2800 Japanese Yen, 2600 Kenyan shillings).

I bought: 6 bananas, 4 large mandarin oranges, 6 medium blood oranges, 4 navel oranges, 2 grapefruit, 1 sweet lemon, 2 pints of strawberries, 3 small jalapeno peppers, 2 small eggplants, 1 bunch of spinach, a small handful of grape tomatoes, 2 avocados, 1 sangak bread ($2.99), 1 container of smoked paprika $2.99), 900 gr bag of green lentils (not pictured) and one 454 gr bag of black eyed peas ($2.99).  I have plenty of vegetables for the week ahead and lots of beans, lentils etc.

Cost wise it seems fairly similar to Young Bros. Produce on W. Broadway; maybe even a bit cheaper. It has the advantage of being a single bus ride from my home and more room to maneuver my shopping trolley while shopping. It also has alternative forms of payment which for me is far better than only having to pay by cash. I seldom have much cash on me.

This is my meat haul from a week ago. There is enough for 3 more dinners.

The meat (ground beef and roast) was packaged into portions for hamburger patties, spaghetti sauce, meatballs, stir  fry (2) and a roast. I also bought a small package of chicken wings (not pictured).  This was all purchased at the usual neighbourhood grocery stores and  cost a total of  $37 Canadian dollars ($27.75, $42.20 Australian, 25.36 €, 3054 Japanese Yen, 2802 Kenyan Shillings). 
I bought 10 kg of flour a few days ago.  It was on sale for $9.99 rather than the usual $13.99.  This large bag will last for up to 6 months if I make bread every week or so. I'll need more yeast before I run out of flour.

It's still been cold at night.  I like to have hot  decaf tea or herbal tea to warm up and sometimes have a muffin.  I made Blueberry Oat Bran Muffins last time instead of the usual Blueberry with white flour.  I tweaked the recipe a bit and added bran to the mix of ingredients.  They were delicious.  I prefer blueberry muffins and also cranberry muffins and alternate between these two over the seasons when it isn't too hot for baking.

All in all I'm pleased with the prices I've managed to get on these last few shopping expeditions.  I'm always keen to get a good price on foods and I'm also always curious about how much others pay for their foods. 

What I've discovered over time is that while Canada doesn't have the highest food prices, we certainly are no where near the least expensive.  Our neighbours to the south and some of our farther flung neighbours, like England, seem to pay a lot less for food than we do.  Canada is also such a vast country and the food prices vary wildly depending on where you live.  People who live in the far north, like Iqaluit, and other northern communities, pay an astronomical amount for fresh produce. In the Arctic one cannot grow fresh produce and it is very expensive to have it shipped in.  I can also say that food prices have skyrocketed in the last few years but that is probably true of most countries.

Added: By the way, this is a bit off topic but I wanted to say that I am also trying to change my ways when it comes to plastics. I go through phases of doing well and then not so well with reducing the use of plastics in stores. It can be rather challenging. Then too I am using plastics when I portion out foods for freezing. If I use plastic bags to store breads and muffins I reuse these many times over. But if I use them to store meat I discard them. 

I have actually purchased reusable net bags for my produce but right now I only have 3 of them. I need many more. I also intend to purchase silicone bags for freezing foods when my budget allows. I do use glass containers for storing food in the refrigerator when there are left over items.  All in all, if one wants to reduce or eliminate plastics altogether it can be very challenging at the best of times. One does have to try though for the sake of our environment. You would be amazed that there are now even plastic particles in the air we breathe. Particles which you obviously cannot see. Beyond that, I'm sure most of you are now aware that there is so much plastic in our oceans that ocean life is ingesting it. The problem of plastics is enormous. I cannot get into the issue properly here but I just wanted to point out that I am aware of the issue and my contribution to it. I am trying to do something about it.  Whatever plastics come into this household, are reused as much as possible before discarding. It would be better if stores and sellers did not wrap everything in so much plastic to begin with.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

A Bit of Sunshine

We've broken records for rainfall in 2020 and I haven't felt much like taking photos.  When we get a few days of sunshine like we have over the past several days, it is a pure joy.

There were multiple signs of spring on a recent outing.  I don't think I've ever noticed these pussy willows in previous years.

I hurriedly snapped a few photos with my phone's camera of both the pussy willows and the croci.

Croci coming up

Indoors I'm babying these small Fiddle Leaf Fig plants purchased in December.  I've managed to keep them alive through the cold winter months and they will be ready to be repotted in a few weeks time.

Two new leaves have come out since mid-December (the small ones at the top).

When I purchased the two plants this one in the top photo didn't look like it would survive.  The large leaf at the top had some holes in it. I'm not sure what causes the problem but it doesn't seem to have gotten any worse. I've called her Mary.

The other plant looked healthier but was very slow to grow a new leaf. One has come out and a second one has been looking to sprout over the past week or more. It might take awhile longer.  I've called this one Harry and he is a big brother to Mary. 

I've heard it said that one should talk to their plants.  This idea has been around since the late 1800s and has actually been a subject of a small study. You can read more about it here.  I've never been one for talking to plants but I try it now and then. Truth be told, long ago when my late mom started growing indoor plants, she talked to them because she heard from someone that talking to them helped them grow.  She had tremendous success with her plants.

The smaller, lighter green leaf in front is the new one. Can you see the little green shoot coming out?

I'll be linking up with Skywatch Friday this week.

 Thank you for stopping by.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Welcome to February

Hi friends,

Time is flying by. I'm glad to see the backside of January and say 'welcome' February. January ushered in the New Year quite rudely in my life with sickness (a lingering cold and a weird skin infection for which I've gone to the doctor and a specialist), my nephew's near death accident, a compromised credit card (usual process of investigation is ongoing and I have received my new card), very stormy weather in Canada and in my province with road closures due to heavy snowstorms (highways were closed more than once), record rainfall with accompanying landslides and other destruction (one parking lot crumbled behind a restaurant not too far from me and now the powers that be have decided to shut the restaurant down due to the uncertainty of land stability), the onset of the worldwide global health crisis (my province has tested 114 people and confirmed one case of the coronavirus; Canada has 4 cases overall with 3 in Ontario).  I thank God that through it all he has preserved me and my family and I look forward with gratitude to what lies ahead.

I want to thank all of you who have prayed for my nephew's recovery. It is remarkable how God not only preserved him from death but is helping him recover. What was first thought to be a broken shoulder was found to be dislocated and reconnected. He has been released from hospital and is recovering at home.  I ask for continued prayers that he doesn't suffer any long standing damage to bones and tissue from the heavy blow his body and that God would provide for all the needs of his family.  I give thanks to God and those who prayed for him. I do not know how long it will be before he can return to work but he is well on his way to recovery and all of his family is grateful.

In late January my friend Eunice in Kenya also suffered a setback. I somehow feel this may have been deliberate negligence of the hospital which is responsible feeding her the special diet we provide and also giving her medication and water. She became severely dehydrated and we then had to provide several bags of  IV fluid. Private hospitals and hospital in general are notorious for bilking the patients and finding all kinds of reasons for charging more money for this and for that, much of it unnecessary. Now today I learned that over the weekend she has been suffering from cold and I'm not certain whether she has not had enough blankets or whether she has malaria. Jonah has had to camp at the hospital to ensure that she is getting proper care.

This poor woman has been through a lot but through it all God has preserved her. Her blood condition is in fact improving and it is unfortunate that this latest setback had to occur and cause fear and financial loss. Please continue to pray for her. At this point the hospital bill has grown enormously as we can only afford to pay for urgent interventions (IV, special diet, blood, hormone medication) and a privately hired nurse to ensure that we understand everything that we need to understand. Jonah is there to attend to much of Eunice's needs however as a man in his culture he is not permitted to do certain things and that is why we have hired a nurse who is also from Eunice's tribal group. (The Go Fund Me Campaign is still open if you can help with any of Eunice's costs. See side bar to the right of the blog).

I do not have a recent update on Ernest since his last surgery.  However he continues to be monitored at the hospital both for his leg and for the diabetes and to receive his medication each week at the hospital. Thank you to one of my blog readers for assisting us financially so that Ernest can get the food and other care he needs. It has been a huge blessing and a help.  Ernest has monthly food needs and medication which costs about $ 150 US funds monthly ($200 Canadian) at minimum. Once he is nutritionally stronger and he can stand on both legs, we hope he could work again as a barber.  If you feel you can help him on a regular basis, kindly let me know.

Jonah himself was sick and in hospital for about 5-6 days. He contracted some kind of bug from suspected contamination of water. He got very sick and tried OTC medicine before checking into hospital. Then he checked out of hospital to try and save funds. I insisted he return to hospital until the laboratory tests were available which he did and spent a further 2 days in hospital before feeling strong enough to discharge.

Finally, I have reported before about Alvin who is hoping to come to Canada to do a Master's program.  It has been a long and very involved and expensive process to assist Alvin, a young man in Kenya, to submit his applications to a university in BC. He has now submitted to 2 programs one located in Vancouver and another located in the Okanagan.  We are praying he will be accepted and one of the programs.  He is also looking for sources of funding both in Kenya and in Canada to help him pay for his studies and living costs. If anyone would like to help this international student kindly let me know.


I didn't get a chance to review 2019 and post my reflections. Too much time has passed for that so I only wish to state I was looking forward to 2020 and an opportunity to work on new goals. I am making slow but steady progress on them.

I also wanted to share this little graphic about my reading goal for 2019. Some of you might remember my reading goals for 2019 was a modest 25 books. I deliberately set it low so that I could focus on real enjoyment of reading and if I read more that was a bonus.In 2020 amongst other goals I hope to read 45 books and am off to a good start.

I spent a lot of time in January cooking and trying new dishes. I also made a lot of bread as a way to reduce spending on groceries. I like to make yeast bread but as any of you who make bread knows, the process can take a long time out of one's day. I found this new to me recipe that allows you to make artisanal bread in just about one hour. I then experimented with it to make regular loaves of read for toast and sandwiches.  I'm quite pleased with how the bread has turned out in my experiments. These bread baking experiments are allowing me to use a large bag of flour, a lot of expired yeast (which is still proofing properly), save money on bread buying and enjoy some home baking.

These are the artisanal style loaves.

I shaped the dough into regular loaves but had to add more flour. I let it rise one extra time.

This recipe is No Knead, No Time Bread and only takes an hour or an hour and some minutes from start to finish. 
The bread turned out quite well after figuring out how to work with the sticky dough.
Here is the recipe if you would like to try it.

In closing I leave you with a view of the mountains today. The sky had a pretty pink glow.
Click photos to enlarge.