Sunday, August 31, 2014

Even Ben Cartwright Would Cringe

I was recently on a Watertown weekend getaway with a friend. We had a relaxing time in a lovely hotel. Shopping was ok albeit pricey so we didn't come away with much. In fact. even the grocery store prices seemed high. We agreed that we liked the large variety and selection of groceries and came away with a few novelty items.

Our main issue was food. We were hard pressed to find a decent meal or a restaurant with nice atmosphere. We even asked the hotel staff for recommendations. I looked on tripadvisor and noted a few restaurants on their local top 10 list.

On the first night, we went to an old favourite, near the hotel. The drinks were reasonable. The food was fine, but mainly deep fried. We were somewhat surprised at how our orders had been prepared when they arrived. It was acceptable but not as nice as we remembered.

I'm not sure certain whether my palate has become that refined or if I'm just that picky. I don't think either is the case. My friend agreed about the meals. We thought we'd hit an off day when we lunched at a well known establishment, one of the highest ranked in town, but found the food mediocre, not terrible, not memorable. The place was noisy and unfamiliar.

Hotel staff suggested a new locale in the Salmon Run Mall called Skewed Brewing (ranked #13 on tripadvisor). We were hesitant about a mall restaurant but decided to take their advice. It turned out to be a large cold looking bar with high ceilings, some well hidden  entertainment and passable but not great food. I carefully selected lunch, a salad and sandwich with chicken, goat cheese and other nutritious ingredients. When it arrived I picked up my sandwich only to have grease ooze onto my hand. It had been somehow grilled in fat. The coffee was serve yourself from those large thermos type things. It looked like an attempt to create a coffee bar... a nice idea. When I went to help myself, the thermos was empty as were the cream containers. A staff member took my cup, walked away and brought it back full. Odd.

So this brings me to the worst meal ever. I have decided that I don't really understand the concept of the Ponderosa. I'm surprised they still exist. I have a vague memory of one near my home when I was young. You walk in and order, then pay at a counter. Sit down, and still have wait staff bring food and drinks after they take the order to the kitchen. Is this somehow efficient? Does it save time or money? If so, how? There's the option of adding a buffet to your meal. I suppose that's in case you need a second meal, particularly if you find the first one inedible or not sufficiently carb laden. In fairness, I did notice jello and some pieces of fruit when I checked the buffet prior to ordering.

Anyhow, I was surprised at how many people raved about this place on tripadvisor. I of course had to add my opinion. Having said that, I'm pretty certain that out of my forty or so reviews, the only other one which was ever this bad might have been, "It's Time...Implode" giving my opinion of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.

So here's the link for my review, although I'll probably just copy and paste it below. By the way, since my review and a few others have been added, I've noted that the ranking has slipped from #59 to #67.
http://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserReviews-g48812-d520707-r224712321-Ponderosa-Watertown_New_York.html

Stay Away!”
1 of 5 starsReviewed 26 August 2014NEW
I'm not certain where some of these reviewers were eating but it certainly wasn't the same Ponderosa I just experienced. There's a huge banner hanging outside the restaurant, (a term which I use loosely). It reads "Canadian money accepted at par". This tricks unsuspecting types from north of the border into the restaurant. My friend and I attempted to eat here thinking it might be worthwhile. We ordered our meals and paid at the counter. After examining same, we decided not to partake of the added buffet. We sat at a table as requested and our drinks and salad came.The salad was almost inedible, made from iceberg lettuce with dressing that tasted as if it had been thinned with vinegar. My meal arrived and the waitress suggested I cut through the meat to see if it was done to my liking. I declined, but when I went to start eating my food, I noted that my meat had already been cut through. I couldn't help wondering whether someone else had sent it back. I waited politely for my friend to get her meal and when it didn't arrive, she told me to start. I tasted the baked potato and joked that the kitchen might have tried that new cooking in the dishwasher technique. How can someone ruin a baked potato? My friend finally asked for her meal since I was almost finished. She was told yet again, "it's coming, it's almost ready". Eventually, it arrived after I was done with mine. By done, I mean I moved the food around the plate in an attempt to find something I could consume without gagging. Now for the good. Yes there was some. I had a dinner roll which was not bad. I also had a skewer of shrimp which was quite good and saved the day. This is the only reason I gave the Ponderosa the generous rating of one.

Service was poor. Food was sub standard in quality and taste. All I can say is that if this restaurant is ranked 59 of 131 in Watertown, I can only imagine how horrible the other seventy two establishments must be.
  • Visited August 2014


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Veggie Pizza Appetizer - Yummy

People have told me they have made or consumed this cold pizza recipe in the past. It was new to me when I tried it last year. I first found it on the Pillsbury website on the internet. Since then I have adapted it and we love it. Cut into small squares, it makes a great appetizer. I've re-created and re-invented the recipe several times to suit our taste. I have also cut the portion size in half because the original is quite large and makes a lot. Today, my pizza looked like this,

The original recipe can be found at the site posted at the end of the blog. I will now share my version.

Ingredients

1 can Pillsbury refrigerated crescent rolls (I use the whole wheat)
4 oz. (half package) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup yogurt, sour cream or tzatziki (tzatziki gives great flavour)
1/2 tsp. dry dill weed (not essential, I rarely have any around)
garlic powder to taste
shredded carrot
broccoli florets, cauliflower , diced veggies eg. green peppers, onions (any or all of these as preferred)
tomato, seeded and chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 375
Roll out the package of crescent rolls onto a small sized rectangular cookie sheet and press down to join the seams.
Bake 13-17 minutes until golden brown. Set aside to cool completely...at least 30 minutes
In a small bowl mix cream cheese, tzatziki or alternative, dill and garlic powder until smooth.
Spread over crust. Top with veggies amount and type to your taste. I usually put carrots first. Then spread whatever else fits and press down.
Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for one to two hours.
Cut into squares using a pizza cutter or sharp knife.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The original recipe can be found at  http://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/easy-crescent-veggie-pizza/4b2c60ae-69e5-4a1a-bed1-219a69cd4514

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Vitamins that Gag You and Those that Don't

Does anyone else have problems swallowing vitamins? Is it my imagination or are they becoming larger? Am I the only one who thinks that some are resembling ammo from a 38 caliber revolver in their size and shape? Could we possibly confuse them someday with the suppositories in our medicine cabinets? They're already about as easy to swallow.

A number of months ago, while my daughter was out of the country, she made a request. She asked me to bring her a bottle of Centrum Flavour Burst Chews. I doubted these were readily available, certainly not with that spelling of the word 'flavour'. Like a good mom, I immediately headed for the source of all things imported and unique....Walmart. There they were, boldly perched atop the shelf like some rare little bird. Why had I never noticed them before?

I had no idea there were such things available.Wow. Who thought of that? Adult yummy chewable vitamins...what a genius! Why should children be the only ones who get Flintstones vitamins, even though they have no idea who the Flintstones are?  Now we too can enjoy good health with a candy coating and bright artificial colours. I took the product home and immediately examined them...with my mouth. Hmmm....crunchy and chewy with some flavour. Easy to consume. Lovely bright packaging too.
On one of my more recent Walmart excursions, I happened to be in the supplement aisle, enroute to the acid reflux relief shelves. Don't you just love old age? Now that I had become more aware of the possibilities, I glanced around and took a closer look. 

"No way! " I said aloud. By the way,  that's another thing I do now...talk out loud. I don't notice or care that people are within earshot when I make my comments. It helps me organize my thoughts, share my experiences, and get excited about things more than if I were only to think about them. If there's nobody else with whom I can share my excitement, I share it with myself. Sound weird? I don't care. Alas, I digress.

Once again, something new and amazing caught my eye. Gummies for women! A bottle leapt into my cart and went home with me. I tried one. Mmmmm.....even better than the crunchy Centrums. In fact, I was hard pressed not to sample another one. So delicious. Now I understand why kiddies run into trouble when their vitamin bottles are left within their reach.
 

I decided to check the label to see what made these gummies so good. Apart from the list of nutrients, vitamins A to Z and calium, which took up the bulk of the label, I found tiny print at the bottom. It said, non-medical ingredients and the first one was...what else? SUGAR!

It had definitely been too good to be true. Despite being called a vitamin, despite all the lovely pictures of fruit on the label...sugar. I suppose the Centrum chews are the same although the label gives no indication and the box has long since disappeared into the recycling bin.

Amazingly enough, these adult essential gummie vitamins actually have their own facebook page. There, it says they are nut and gluten free. Good to know.

I have become very aware of all the sodium, sugar and chemicals in our foods. Many foods, are disguised as nutritious despite their content, but vitamins? Vitamins should be the last pure threshold of all things healthful. On the other hand, the sugar content is probably minimal and if it helps get them down, the benefits surely must outweigh the negatives. Sadly, once I'm finished this bottle, I will be forced to go back to gagging down the old enormous, tasteless projectiles.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hollywood Comes to Town

They're making a movie in our town. It's going to be called "Pixels" and it stars Adam Sandler and Michelle Monaghan. I read about its making quite some time ago.There appears to have been a delay in the June filming schedule. Instead, the props and scenes have been gradually appearing one by one over the past few days and word is that there'll be action beginning at 7 a.m. tomorrow.
The movie has an unusual premise involving aliens, video games and the 80's. The genre is labelled as comedy sci-fi. I first noticed downtown preparations with the appearance of flags, strange flags, alien flags in the poles outside of local storefronts.


Some buildings have been assigned decorative posters while others are listed for sale. Note the Hollywood telephone number beginning with the usual 555 digits.




















As I walked by some of the shops today, I was envious of the 1980's prices.


















The Bargain Shop, which went out of business during the winter has been transformed into a video game arcade, the Electric Dreams Factory. Our local Park theatre, also out of business, has been renamed and advertises Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

                                                                                               
Yes, all the action begins tomorrow morning...and you can be certain that yours truly will be there, front and centre to watch!
     
______________________________________________________________________________
Sites for more info about the movie -

http://cobourginternet.ca/cobourg-news/news-2014/206-another-movie-to-be-filmed-in-cobourg

 and also

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2120120/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Canadian Automotive Museum & Memories

The city of Oshawa is famous for General Motors and the McLaughlin family. Sam McLaughlin, founder of the McLaughlin Motor Car Company in 1907 lived to be over 100 years old. He became president of General Motors Canada in 1918 and continued his affiliation with the company until well into the 1960's. How amazing it must have been for him to see his vision turn into such a massive manufacturing facility!

I lived in Pickering in the 60's, not too far away, but sadly, was too young, too disinterested and too unaware of automobiles and their assembly to be curious. I knew nothing of the McLaughlin family's history and as far as I was concerned, Oshawa was so far away that it might as well have been on another planet.***

To this day, if I'm to be honest I don't really bother with automobiles. My previous car was purchased after I drove past a Ford dealership and liked the look, colour and features. I don't rush off to shopping mall parking lots where old cars are gathered en masse and people proudly display their refurbished vehicles.

Having said all that, I recently had occasion to go to the Canadian Automotive Museum. The occasion was my attempt to amuse an 18 year old male visitor without totally breaking the bank. I checked tripadvisor and discovered that this was ranked the number four attraction in Oshawa. Admission was reasonable and despite being located in the heart of downtown, there was free onsite parking.

As soon as I walked inside, I was astounded. The old (not old as in parking lot gathering old, but really, really old) vehicles were fascinating. They were huge, beautifully constructed and ornate. I was also amazed at how many were actually built in Canada. 
These are some of the more basic earlier vehicles
Hubby was most excited to spot this vehicle. It was a Buick Roadmaster, one of only twenty-seven  remaining in the world. He told the story of when he was young in New York. He recalled riding to the lake in this type of car with the neighbour's son Freddy Werner. What he remembered most vividly was when Freddy drove home from work one day, honking his horn, displaying American flags and yelling that the war was over.

Then we got to a generation of vehicles which I remember fairly well. As soon as I saw this, I recognized what it was. I'd seen an amphicar this exact colour a few times  as it drove into Frenchman's Bay near my home. Imagine that...a car that could also motor through water. What fun! And yet, if you thought a convertible alone would ruin your do, imagine riding this through water with 60's poofed up hair รก la the movie 'Hairspray'.
The Automotive Museum has unfortunately outgrown its space. There have been so many wonderful donations that some areas are cramped at best. For example, who would want to hide away this memorable 1960's lemon yellow Corvair. My dad owned the four door silver version. I think it should be on display front and centre don't you agree?
Ah yes, so many interesting things to see and so many memories. There were cars and limos which once carried royalty and then there was the DeLorean, a stainless steel sports car with gull wing doors. There had been a lot of controversy surrounding this model of car, finances and its owner. The DeLorean's biggest claim to fame has to have been its starring role in the movie 'Back To The Future' where Doc Brown turns it into a time machine.






What a thrill it was to actually see a real DeLorean. This one, a 1982 coupe had been donated to the museum. It had very low mileage...under 2000.  

Then, as we were leaving I noticed something else which I remembered. It was an old gas pump displaying the price of twenty-nine cents a gallon. When I first moved to Pickering, gas was twenty-nine cents a gallon at the Fina station on the corner of Liverpool Road and Bayly. Gallons were definitely cheaper than our current litres.
Too often, we ignore the attractions that are closest to us. A lot of people say that it takes having company for them to see the many wonderful tourist sites available around them. How true this is. It was particularly the case for me. This was truly a wonderful experience and not one that I would have normally selected for myself. I recommend it to anyone. In fact, I will....as soon as I write my own tripadvisor review.
_________________________________________________________________________________
***I had young person's view of distance to be sure. Oshawa was about 15 kilometres away, plus there was not much public transportation in the 'burbs back then. Can you say Gray Coach bus? Those were even the days prior to the existence of GO transit.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Is It A Male-Female Thing?...not always

I was on my walk today and I started thinking about a small bone of contention at our house...road trips. Interestingly enough, there was a recent study which gave some statistics about arguments which ensue when couples travel together in a car. Apparently, it's common. For the most part, I think men and women view car rides differently. Of course there are always exceptions, so please don't get on my case about these generalizations.

Here are some ideas a relative and I had fun coming up with one day. Agree or disagree?
                                                                                           
Women : Driving is a means to an end.    Men : Driving is enjoyable.

Women : When possible, take a scenic route, stop frequently for yard sales, tourist attractions and the like.  Men : Stop as little as possible. The end is the goal. The trip is timed to the minute.    

Women : Stop at a roadside type restaurant that has a gift shop or at least have a nice leisurely picnic lunch, smell the air, pick the flowers, stretch.   Men : Eat a sandwich from the cooler while driving.

Women : Go to a decent restroom when necessary...every two hours or less is best. Tourist info or roadside attraction or cafe (with a gift shop) are preferable.  Men :  "What do you mean you need to go again? You just went five hours ago." Go to whatever requires the least amount of off road stopping time. Aforementioned relative shared that her hubby would go in a bottle in the car if it meant he didn't have to stop.
                                   
 Women :  Leave the non scenic super highway (they look alike almost anyplace on the planet don't they?) to see the world's biggest bagel or some other equally appealing site which is only about 10 km away.  Men : No time to stop. Have to get to the hotel by the designated time. Didn't allow for off road excursions. Ten km each way totals 20 km...nope, can't happen. Too far.  
                                                                                                     
 I'm sure the list goes on and on. The thing is, what's the hurry? What does it matter if you arrive someplace an hour sooner or later. Being adventurous, in my opinion, makes the trip more memorable and enjoyable.

I'll never forget one road trip when hubby gave in to my whim. We were driving along and I was checking the GPS, then loudly announced, "Sleepy Hollow! I want to go to Sleepy Hollow."  I'm not certain whether I even knew that this was a real place. Situated on the east bank of the Hudson River, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is where the author of the famous children's book, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving is buried along with other notables such as the Carnegies and the Astors. We visited the small Dutch church of Sleepy Hollow and walked the trails and across the bridge where the headless horseman was said to have ridden. The museum was fascinating despite being a ....well....a museum. What a great off the main road adventure.














Recently, my friend and I were heading toward Frankenmuth when we spotted a sign. "It's a sign!" we both shrieked in unison, "Let's go there."                      
We programmed the GPS which claimed that Clare was 100 km away. That can't be right we thought. Why would they advertise so far away? We decided to continue to our hotel. After all, we didn't want to miss happy hour and our free food and drinks. We had a deadline. The receptionist confirmed our greatest fear...it was a minimum one hour drive each way to Clare, Michigan home of Cops & Doughnuts. Definitely more than a short off road side trip. What to do?

Well, a decision was made. We will just have to go back another time and make this detour a part of our next destination...perhaps on our way to Makinac Island (location of "Somewhere in Time") or Metropolis, Illinois (home of Superman).                                                                                                          

Saturday, August 2, 2014

How Do You Protect Yourself?

Well, I'm finally going to tackle this topic. The question is "How do you protect yourself?"

Ask any Canuk this question and they'll require elaboration. The initial reaction will be, "protect myself from what?" I know this first hand. While abroad, I've responded this way many times myself.

We  Canadians try to think about what could be meant by this query. Protect myself from mosquito bites? Answer - Off spray with deet. Protect myself from flu, measles, chicken pox or shingles ? Answer - Immunization. Protect myself from fire, water damage, or accident? Answer - Insurance. Protect myself from STD'S? ....Well, you get the idea. I'm certain people can add to the list since all of these thoughts occur to us.

What we don't have is the American mindset and immediate response of  "I protect myself with a gun." No disrespect intended toward my U.S. family or friends. In fact, I'm not even suggesting that every one in the U.S. thinks that way or owns a weapon. However, I have run into more than my fair share of people who have asked. They seem surprised that I have lived to this ripe old age without protection. They are shocked that I'm not walking around toting a gun or keeping one within easy reach. This begs the question. Has everyone in the U.S.A. experienced break ins, stalkers, burglars, home invasions or dangerous offenders? Is the country rife with lunatics? Is it horribly dangerous to live there? If so, has it helped to have a gun? Or, is it possible that our American neighbours suffer from some type of paranoia? Perhaps they're trying to justify a constitutional amendment from hundreds of years ago. After all, their forefathers didn't have the luxury of Walmart groceries or protection from police forces. They hunted for food and guarded their ranches from coyotes and rustlers, while relying on the town's sheriff. At least that's what the Cartwright family did on the Ponderosa. So why are they clinging so desperately to this amendment especially given all the horrific gun related events which continue to occur?

 I guess I just don't understand the oft repeated mantra of "I have to protect myself and my property, therefore I have a gun...or several...or an arsenal."

Hence, my answer, "Protect yourself from what?"

Someone actually once said to me that if people found out that I didn't have a gun, I'd be in even bigger danger than I am now.  (Insert picture of me with sweat pouring from my brow. Either that, or a baffled looking scrunched up terrified face with a "Huh?" expression)

The other day, as I watched my second last episode of The View, I was surprised at the reaction of every woman on the panel. They talked about about "protecting" their children and how much safer they feel in possession of a weapon. Their rationale made no sense to me, but it did to them. Example, how does brandishing a gun when one or more people have broken into your house with guns, protect you?

So, that's all I have to say on the matter.

By the way, lest anyone get any ideas, we have a vicious guard dog, a high tech alarm system and I do have various types of maiming skills. I've had training. Did I mention I also have a marksman's badge in shooting? Oh well, that's a story for another time.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The View...from the Pit

Well, I've watched my last episode of 'The View'. At the risk of sounding more and more like my hubby, here's the reason. I believe that all the intelligent ladies have left the programme and with one exception, we are left with ***screaming banshees.

Barbara Walters, who developed the format must be cringing. I'm sure this isn't how she envisioned the show when she created it. I can see why she, and some others, retired.

In Barbara Walters own words...

"I've always wanted to do a show with women of different generations, backgrounds and views: a working mother; a professional in her 30s ; a young woman just starting out; and then somebody who's done almost everything and will say almost anything . And in a perfect world, I'd get to join the group whenever I wanted...."

Today, I came to realize that I couldn't hear what any of the current hosts were saying. Just as well. They were all shouting, one louder than the next, and nobody was listening. It was over an inane topic which I believe had to do with the behaviour of  'The Bachlorette'. It was definitely not the original format of "discussing political and social issues".Was nobody in this group ever taught the art of conversation? Yes, I realize that sometimes people get excited and want their opinion heard. It happens. But why, why, is it necessary to yell and repeat the same comment over and over?

Of late, I've heard nothing about politics unless it described a specific politician and included a scandal. I've heard nothing about any current social issues (a brief mention of guns and how they'd shoot people, but that's it). I've heard only about some of the ridiculous exploits of movie stars and reality show participants. That's fine, but it should not be the exclusive content of the show. I believe that they have  turned  'The View' into a television version of the National Enquirer.

'The View' began on August 11, 1997. Unless there are drastic changes, I believe it's run will soon come to an end. It's already come to an end for me.
_________________________________________________________________________________***screaming banshees - Irish female spirits in mythology. They screech and shreik like owls and  forewarn of an imminent death. (In this case, the death of a t.v. show).