Reading of Frozen Adventures

Over the last few years I have been given books by my kids for Christmas or my birthday about Arctic and Antarctic explorers. From the Franklin expedition, the search for Franklin, to Shackleton’s dramatic escape from the frozen southern continent.

I just finished reading Alone on the Ice that features the 1913 solo 40 day crawl by Douglas Mawson back to the base after his two teammates had died. There is little inspiration about reading where extreme freezing and near starvation forces you to eat all your dogs and eventually your frozen finger tips.

I was reading this last part while lying in bed with a warm comforter on me after a hearty dinner earlier in the evening but still shivered. Hard to imagine the eternal blizzards and desperation in search of … well nothing.

I am not sure why this particular genre has struck the fancy of my children as suitable for me. I suspect they are reacting to my often quoted stories about how harsh it was when I was young and how hardy we had to be and they want to demonstrate that there was a time when my upbringing would have been considered luxury.

But it also raises the question about why would men do this. Risk horrible death for little reward aside from some fleeting fame. No one ever got rich from it. But then I think of all the idiots that climb Everest or K2 with a strong possibility of freezing and dying, I guess it is just the nature of some people. Why for example go to the moon? Not much there.

However as I sit in my nice warm house, contemplating our meal for the evening I realize I am no longer one of those that risk it all for adventure. Bad enough that I have to risk my life going into Costco with only a mask to protect me.

Our New Orleans Meal

That is not the title I would have chosen, but if I put Gumbo and Cornmeal in the title, I would be inundated by people looking for my recipe.

Like many of our inspirations for a meal, I was reading a book where the character was in New Orleans and had a great Louisiana Gumbo. We decided to make it the feature meal of the week. A gumbo made with chicken, shrimp and chorizo sausage. I should have been Andouille sausage, but Chorizo is what we had in inventory.

We have made New Orleans Gumbo in the past, but rarely. One of the problems is obtaining the required ingredients. As it happens we have a jar of Creole File (ground sassafras) We chose shrimps instead of crawfish and, as I said, subbed the sausage. But where do you get Okra?

Now when we lived in Ontario there were so many food stores that carried unusual or ethnic foods. Here on island with all the old white people from Alberta, the selection is less diverse. Cannot find Catfish no matter how much you try. Anyway it took three grocery stores but we found Okra, and not frozen but fresh. Very nice Gumbo and enough for a repeat on Saturday.

With the meal I made cornbread. I do not do this often because I find cornbread good for one meal but too dry for the next. As it happens I was searching on UTube and a lady in the Appalachians was demonstrating how she makes cornbread 3 days a week. I did not use the pig lard that she used, but otherwise followed her directions and it turned out great.

I guess that part of isolation life, is where preparing an interesting and time consuming meal becomes the highlight of the day.

A New Train

You may remember that I made two trains for Ryan and Corrie’s boys for Christmas. Ryan contacted me and said “Uncle… two trains and three boys… do something” Or words to that effect.

So I made another train. Same scale with cars that can be interchanged. Did not have another rolling bin for the boiler so had to make my own. I made an oil car because it seems every train in Canada is hauling crude oil.

Pat suggested the car carrier built to hold hot wheels. You may notice it looks different because I used the Brazilian cherry from pieces left over from our floor. A very hard and therefore hardy wood.

The crane car may not last long as a toy but I had fun making it, and that is the main point.


Noisy Woodpecker

When it rains here, and lets face it, it rains a lot in winter here in Paradise, we get a visit from a Pileated Woodpecker that chooses to ply its trade high up under the eaves above our bedroom.  No idea why, as it pounds on the hardy board where there are no insects.  But it taps away on the wall.  You lie in bed in the morning and hear this tapping on the wall.  

I get up and go out on the patio into the pouring rain and shout “shoo” and it flies away.  Later it comes back to bug me when I am having my afternoon nap.  

It only does this when it is pouring rain, and it is too wimpy to get wet while working on a tree.  Ratta tatta tat. 

Nature.  Some people like it.

Adult male Pileated Woodpecker 

Tiny blocks

I had the opportunity to join Pat in a zoom meeting with her sisters, but quickly removed to myself to go to the shop to build blocks (pulleys). The picture is the result of 3 hours of work.

Even I realize that this is crazy, but I needed many small blocks for the upper rigging. These are 3 mm which at the scale would be blocks about 9 inches.  This scale is much more difficult to make than the larger blocks.

I have always expressed negative opinions to model ships that I see where the lines and the blocks are way over scale.

Believe me this has become much more difficult for me to make these than it was.  I have about a 50% failure rate in the production line.  Hence why I do not do this for a living.  By the way in the picture you will see one of the pieces of wood that I start with.  Good old Swiss Pear wood.  

A Jupiter Conjunction

I have been reading about this historic event when Saturn and Jupiter combine in the sky. Something to see.  A rare conjunction.

Admittedly, in Paradise in December we often have overcast skies and rain.  You have to accept the good with the bad.

But last evening there was a break in the sky and with all the rain the air was pure and clean.  I spotted Jupiter in the sky to the west clear and bright as a spotlight.  I loaded up Pat and Reese in Big Red to drive 5 minutes north to be in dark skies where, using my binoculars, we could enjoy the vision of Jupiter and Saturn with the rings.  A once in 800 year opportunity.

Unfortunately the clouds rolled in as we drove and we did not get to see it.  Reese was a little concerned as we unloaded in a dark parking lot and walked around.  Not to happen. 

I doubt if Pat and I will have another opportunity in 800 years to see this.  


Stepping off the Sidewalk

Just before I retired I was in Detroit in January as I was taking our team to the Detroit Auto Show.  We were staying at a downtown hotel where we could walk to the Cobo center.

I decided I was going to walk around the block before we met in the lobby as a group. (big mistake in Detroit) 

I was walking down the street and a person of, well what is the term?. a person of underachievement, a person with little or no personal hygiene, a person wearing an assortment of ill fitting clothes… was walking or staggering towards me.  I took the safe route and stepped off the pavement to walk around him.  He started screaming at me that I was.. well let me translate.  An elitist or a person with no sympathy.  He ended up following me to the lobby yelling all the way.

Today I was taking Reese for a walk around the college.  On the sidewalk when we came across someone or a group coming the other way, one or the other steps off to keep space.  Nodding thanks.  What a change in society.  

Tea Biscuits

I was working in the shop downstairs doing manly things. Adding chain plates for dead eyes to support the funnel for the French Frigate Sphinx.  But I had to stop work early to go upstairs to make Tea Biscuits.  

Some background.  Last week Pat and I made a huge batch of 8 bean soup with ham and veggies.  We had it as a main meal but in the last week or so I have used small batches to share with my sandwich for lunch.  Absolutely, a delicious soup like nothing you get out of a can.  When we have soup as the main meal, I would prepare my special bread loaf to go with it.   

After a number of days of great but hearty meals (like South Carolina back ribs yesterday), we decided for Monday to use up the last of the bean soup.  I did not think to prepare a loaf of bread.

Now I could have made a French stick but the last time I made this, the work involved (an hour of kneading and massaging) put the kibosh on that.  Also did not want to head off to the store as we are trying to minimize our external contacts.  So I decided to make tea biscuits, or as we knew them growing up, baking powder biscuits.

These were common when we were kids.  Our mother never had the time to bake bread but she could often whip off a batch of biscuits for our dinner after she got home for work.  Properly done, these biscuits are delicious but there is a narrow time in the baking between underdone and the kind of biscuits used in the Royal Navy called Hard Tack.  Even in our youth the biscuits were no good the next day as they turned hard, but with Blaine and I, never a problem.  Give a little butter and honey and they were gone.  Dale started making them when she took home ec in high school and became involved in feeding us.

Pat dug out her cook book from when she was taking home ec in high school for me.  Lots of penciling in the side margins.  

I made perfect tea biscuits tonight to go with our bean soup.  Light and fluffy with a crisp crust.  Just like they serve the Queen.  

Friday after American Thanksgiving

I did not include the term “Black Friday” in the title or I could possibly get hundreds of hits on my blog.  What a concept for sales. 

I remember when Boxing Day was the big sales day for bargains. 

At one time I thought we could hide the calendar from the kids and convince them that December 27 was Christmas so we could buy all their gifts at half price.  Unfortunately we were “rewarded” with children of intelligence so this never worked out.  Also the option of telling them we were actually Ukrainian with Christmas Day in January, also did not work.

Anyway I digress.  For some unusual reason, the first day of the Christmas season seems to start with American Thanksgiving and all the football games that go with it.  The next day you are supposed to rush out and buy, buy, buy as there is only 5 more weeks until December 25.  

We are being inundated with brochures and flyers advertising Black Friday bargains, but they no longer wait until the NFL games are played.  Such good prices.

I was telling Patty that we have to replace our 2 year old TV because just look at the deals.  She ignored me.  

We will not be participating in this frenzy and definitely will not line up at 6:30 am at Best Buy on Nov 27 for the true bargains.  


With the advent of cold weather there are not a lot of activities that we can do with our Probus group.  Too wet for hiking and too cool for golf.

So Pat and I today joined the small bowling group for 5 pin fun.  Only every other lane is open and you are limited to 3 bowlers per lane and masks and lots of sterilizing.  So felt safe.

We have not been bowling for at least 45 years.  I thought it would be like riding a bike, but it is not.

When I was a teenager we did a lot of 5 pin bowling.  On Friday night you could take a date to the Norwood lanes and at 9pm they turned down the lights except over the pins.

I even prepared for today by watching The Big Lebowsky movie.  Two reasons why this did not work.  They were playing 10 pin, and they drank beer.

I mean, how hard can it be. Just roll a ball down a flat surface and knock down some pins.  Granted it would help if you could bounce off the side like playing pool, but no.  They put troughs down each side.  Just not fair.

I scored terrible.  Even Pat beat me on the first game (sorry Pat that sounds condescending).  I did not fall on my bum and in the second game managed a couple of strikes and a spare.

Still we had fun so I suspect we will join them next month again.