Tuesday, August 30, 2011


This is a picture of a very happy couple...Kim and Mark.  They got engaged this past weekend.  Mark is our nephew.  You might remember him from a post in my previous blog here

Kim lives in Phoenix and Mark lives in northern Alberta.  For the past year or so they've been carrying on a long distance romance.  Kim flies up to Edmonton whenever she can and Mark comes down to Phoenix just as often.  Kim is American and Mark is Canadian.

Mark's mother spends a fair amount of time in Arizona and on one of Mark's visits to her, one of her friends introduced him to Kim.  And the rest is history.  Over the past year, with all their travelling back and forth between the two countries, the family has come to know and love Kim and are happy to have her join the family.

They have some logistical problems to overcome  but they'll work through them and Kim will move to Alberta  and join the MacKenzie clan there.

So Congratulations to Kim and Mark!  Many happy years are ahead of you.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Driving around town on a hot summer afternoon I spotted these two doves resting peacefully on their nest in the arms of a giant saguaro.

I wonder if there were any eggs in the nest - or if those are a couple of this year's hatchlings.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Quick Post

First of all, many thanks to Emily for being a most excellent guest blogger.  I hope you all enjoyed a tour of her balcony garden.  She's a very clever daughter.

We've just completed our first whole day of our Arizona vacation - it was a winding down day for Lloyd.  He slept and napped whenever the mood hit, hosed all the desert dust off the back deck and yard and we made a short trip to Kohls for shopping  before spending a couple of hours in the pool - our little piece of heaven on earth.

Here's a few snaps so far.

A common sight in Alberta - oil pumps and hay bales

Sunrise over a farm in southern Alberta

Oranges on our  orange tree in Arizona
A Little Lime

Lemons on our lemon tree - it's exciting to finally see fruit on these trees.

A shot of our pool remote showing the pool water temp of 87F and the air temp of 117F (47.2C). It's like swimming in a warm bath - lovely.

We're having a relaxing time - no plans other than to go cruising around taking pictures of whatever strikes our fancy - and not straying far from air conditioned buildings and vehicles.

Have a good weekend everyone.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Guest Blogger: Emily

Hello! I'm Pat's daughter Emily, and as promised I'm doing a guest entry here while Mum's headed down to Arizona. I'm not sure it's necessarily a "special treat" as she was touting it, but at least it's better than nothing while she's on the road, I hope.

I live in a highrise apartment in downtown Edmonton and Mum thought it would be nice if I wrote about the garden I have on my balcony here. It's nothing too fancy, as this year was my first real try at growing my own food, but it turned out a lot better than I had honestly expected for just things that I could grow in pots on my balcony.

My main reason for getting into gardening was for food. I'm not so much into it as an aesthetic thing, although plants are beautiful so I do love to look at them and photograph them, but the design of the space isn't particularly attractive - just a bunch of plants shoved up into the areas of the balcony that get direct sunlight and stacked on whatever works to get them up into the sun. I made liberal use of the gross old furniture that was abandoned by the person who used to live in this apartment to hold up all of my cheap plant pots. Because of the food-over-beauty thing, I didn't plan anything that I couldn't eat. There are quite a few marigolds and some lavender to brighten up the place, but only because they're edible.

This is my balcony back in mid-July. At the very back there is my cherry tree, which was to be the feature point of the whole thing, but after a modest harvest it looks like it may well be dying. I don't think it liked our wet, cold summer very much. I'll mulch and cover it for the winter anyway and hope it comes back next year. I bought it after it had already set fruit, so I never got to see it blossom. I did get some good, tasty little sour cherries though:

My black currant bush didn't fare much better than the cherry tree. All my other plants seem to be pest-free, probably because they're so high up and in isolated pots, but the currants got infested by aphids. Still, we got at least a couple juicy, tart currants off of it

My favourite plant ended up being the cucumber plant. It grew a lot faster than the others, and when I started seeing its little tendrils reaching out to climb, I rushed out to grab some bamboo sticks to let it climb up. It was exciting to see something I'd planted shoot up and out like that. With its huge umbrella-like leaves, sticky prickly stem, and grabby little tendrils, it felt like a creepy pet as much as a plant. Unfortunately I missed the memo that you're supposed to manually pollinate cucumbers until all the blossoms had already shriveled up, and the plant is now in obvious decline. It did manage to self-pollinate and create one surprisingly large fruit before dying on me, though, which made a lovely cucumber salad. Here it is shortly before picking:

 This month the obvious star of the garden is the peppers. I kept taking pictures today trying to convey just how many chili peppers there are out there, but it's tough because they're all just kind of on top of each other and growing out in every which way, just looking like foliage.

That's the chaos of my chili pot. There are three plants in there, and they all seem to be in a panic about making as much fruit as possible. I figure some of these will end up as jelly, one or two might be eaten fresh, and the rest I'll have to dry. I thought I would be lucky if I got any peppers at all in this climate, but they seem to just love my balcony.

These are cayennes hiding at the bottom of the pot of chili plants. These were green last time I checked! I was so excited when I was taking pictures for this blog entry and found that I finally had a ripe one. I wasn't sure they would make it before the end of the season.

This is the bell pepper plant that shares a pot with the cucumber. I thought it would be sacrificed to the cucumber plant that grew way faster than it and tried to climb all over it, but it seems to have survived and done pretty well. That giant yellowing leaf there is the cucumber plant. Teeny tiny bell peppers, it should be noted, are the cutest fruit in the world.

That's one of my strawberry plants, which is being really ambitious and still blossoming. Allan and I have already eaten all the berries that these few plants have produced this year. Yum.

How obvious is it that fruiting plants are my favourite? Herbs, flowers, lettuce, whatever...nothing's as exciting as growing your own fruit. It's like magic. Those are my cherry tomatoes above. It's a determinate variety so they should all ripen at once, and hopefully that happens before it gets all cold and crappy up here. I'm obsessed with tomatoes this year and I'm giving the tomato guy at the farmer's market all my money.

OK, I guess I can give a little love to non-fruiting plants...

This is a pretty pot: marigolds and lavender. Will probably use these to scent some fruit jellies. The lavender was pretty subdued until the past couple of weeks that some new growth and pretty flowers started appearing.

Here's some marigolds with lettuce, and a few wisps of garlic chives that liked to get in front of every picture I took. The chives have made me fall in love with baked potatoes and sour cream again. I shoved lettuce in a lot of places that it didn't really have room to grow in (this "pot", for example, is a shallow drawer from an abandoned nightstand) so I didn't get much, but these sad little leaves are still good eatin.

So that's pretty much what I managed to produce and eat this year on my balcony. It was a good experiment, and next year I think I'll mostly focus on the plants that did well and go for volume, and maybe even try to make it pretty. We'll see.

Well that's about all I've got to say about my garden here. I've got my own blog at pepperolive.com where I ramble on about plants and food. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

R&R Time

After the heat of the weekend, these past couple of days and nights have been blessedly cool.  I love sleeping with all the windows open and waking up feeling just a bit cold, knowing I've been breathing in cool fresh air all night.

I had two outings yesterday.  My oldest granddaughter, Kenzie (8) called me to ask if we could go out for lunch together...just the two of us.  So I let her choose her venue - Southgate Mall Food Court where we ate pasta at Sbarros.  Then we went to Costco to pick up my pictures and strolled around eating free samples.  She especially wanted to check out the books and videos and as luck would have it she found the Angry Birds at Rio movie.  So we put it in our basket, along with my new Christmas decoration of the year (I get a new one every year), and we went home happy.

I hadn't been home half an hour when my friend, Mickey, called to ask if I wanted to go with her and her granddaughter to see the movie The Help.  As I had just finished reading the book, I was eager to see the movie.  It was remarkably well done - one of those movies that stayed true to the book, leaving out very little and adding nothing.  I would recommend it highly whether or not you've read the book first.

I'll be MIA for the next few days as Lloyd and I head down to Arizona for a week.  I know it's weird - complaining about the heat up here and going down to the furnace that is Arizona in the summer.  But it's a different heat down there - dry heat!! Right!  We just like being down there, going to the different restaurants, swimming in the pool, enjoying the air conditioned house, exploring our corner of the state, etc., being alone and resting.  (Don't tell anyone, but I think we're in danger of becoming old fogies!).

I've a special treat for you though.  I've invited my youngest daughter, Emily, to be a guest contributer on my blog.  She's calls herself and her husband "foodies".  She's a wonderful cook, haunts farmers markets, takes food and wine courses at local colleges, and has a lovely container garden on her high rise apartment balcony.  I think you'll enjoy her contribution here.  You can check out her own blog at Pepper Olive.

I'll be back in a few days.


Monday, August 22, 2011

On Your Mark...Get Set...GO!

The Edmonton Marathon event was on this weekend and some of our kids were involved in the races for the first time.  Mary and Greg have been running for a couple years and were registered for the half marathon (21k) and encouraged the siblings and cousins to train for the 5k run as a starting off point.  Their 7-year old daughter, Layla, is a very good runner too and was registered in the 1k age group race.

Here's how it all shook down.

The first race on Saturday was the 1k age group kids races.

Layla left the rest of the kids in the dust, coming in first by a long shot.

Here she is accepting congratulations and praise from the founder of The Running Room, who sponsored the weekend's events.

Then, in the evening it was time for the 5k. We were so proud of our largely non-athletic kids in their mid to late 30s for training for and completing this event.

Jenn, a 38 year old mother of 5 boys, proud and happy after her first ever official race.

Amy, our 36 year old mother of 4, with the fancy shoes, happy to complete her first official race.

Rob (39) and wife Cindy (36) after successfully completing the 5k.

Our niece, Rachel (31) striding through the finish line at the 5k.

My running kids and the sign we waved at them as they ran by.

Then, yesterday morning Mary and Greg (both 31) got up bright and early on what turned out to be the hottest day of the summer for their half marathon.  Lloyd, Rob, Amy and I  were at the finish line to cheer them in.  They both completed it in just over 2 hours.

These two kids were the inspiration for the others to run and compete.  They all felt so good about their accomplishments and have decided to do the 10k race next year, except for Rob who wants to do the half marathon with Mary and Greg.  And at least two other of our kids have decided to start training and start with the 5k or maybe even the 10k next year.  Lloyd, too, has decided to train for next year's run. He used to be quite the runner when he was these kids' ages.  I'll hold off until I get my arthritic knees replaced with bionic ones.

We're just so proud of them all. 


Sunday, August 21, 2011

What A Day!

Yesterday - one of those great days that will linger in our memories for a long, long time.  Here's why.

The Lloyd and Pat MacKenzie family - all 36 of us
Oops, there's only 35 here.  3-year old Baron decided he didn't want to participate and hid behind the crowd

These are my people - the joy of my life.  To have them all together in one place posing for pictures and having fun together is an undescribable joy.  It makes those seven labors and deliveries, years of growing and refereeing and cooking and cleaning, proud moments and sad, all worthwhile.

We all met at our daughter, Amy's home with its huge back yard and spent an incredibly stress free day. The cousins all got along so well and had such fun with one another that the adults were free to visit and enjoy the time together.

We also had extras attending...our niece Beth, her boyfriend, Vance, her daughter Jade with her husband, Mark and baby Lane, our niece Rachel, her husband Kirk, and four children.  So we had a really full house.  We all chipped in with the food so no one person had to do all the kitchen work and noone went away hungry.

Daughter Sara with husband Quincey, baby Quinn, Max, Elly and Charlie

Son Rob with wife Cindy, Anson and Brooklyn

Daughter Jenny with husband Anders, sons Sam, Jonah, James, Nathan and Micah

Our baby daughter Emily and husband Allan

Daughter Amy with husband Curtis, Kenzie, Sydney, Aidan and baby Tate

Daughter Mary with husband Greg, Layla and Baron

Son Mike with wife Avril, baby Hannah, Kenny and Alex

We had races and games and lots of free play for the kids.  The weather cooperated and we had a lovely sunny warm day.

Some little ones played in the sand pit

Some sat on the shed roof and ate

Others risked life and limb onthe trampoline (no injuries)

We had races

And leg wrestling

And relaxing on the swing set

And apple picking

The men had a one-foot hop race

and another race for the 3-5 rear olds

Who can beat that kind of fun!  It was a happy, happy day for everyone.  Who'd have thought when we got married 40 years ago that such a crowd of people having so much fun was in our future.

Life is good.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Lucky me!  I've received my first bloggy award from Fiona over at Rainbows and Daisies.  Fiona lives in Ireland and has a lovely blog with beautiful pictures.  Stop by and visit her.  You'll be glad you did. Thanks Fiona.

The Liebster Award is meant to connect us even more and spotlight new bloggers who have less than 200 followers. Every blogging award usually is accompanied by a set of rules.  This award is no different...it has five rules.

1. Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.

2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blogs.

3. Post the award on your blog.

4. Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the Internet - other writers. 

5. And best of all - have fun and spread the karma!

The five Blogs I've chosen to spotlight are as follows, in no particular order.  I must say that I had a hard time finding five blogs on my list who had fewer than 200 followers.
1. Taryterre over at http://taryterre.blogspot.com/  I just discovered her blog a couple days ago.  She has great food posts as well as slice of life entries accompanied by lovely pictures.

2. Kath from S. Dakota at  http://hafdozenreasons.blogspot.com/ is the first blog I started following a couple of years ago. The haf'dozen in her blog title refers to her 6 children who are gradually starting to leave the nest.  She has some great stories to tell.

3.  Holly at Hoosier at Heart has a unique sense of humor and is always good for a laugh. I met her this past summer and you wouldn't believe the foolish things she made us do - in public.

4.  Jo, at Just Call Me Jo is Holly's partner in crime in Arizona and likes to pretend she's cranky, but she's just funny.

5. Hanne and Michael at Penticton Commentary write a blog about life in Canada's beautiful Okanagan Valley.  Gorgeous pictures.

So those are my choices for the Liebster Award.  Pop over and check their great blogs out.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hail, Hail....

..the gang's all here.  Almost.  We're gearing up for a busy weekend - gotta make sure my camera battery is charged.

We're having an informal family reunion this weekend.  With me and Lloyd, our seven children, their spouses and children, there'll be 36 people involved as well as a couple of nieces and nephews and their spouses and kids who got wind of it and want to participate. 

It all started with Mary, who lives across the mountains in British Columbia, our only child not living in Alberta.  She and her husband are runners and were planning on running a half marathon here in Edmonton this weekend.  She decided that since they were coming all that distance (a 12 hour drive through the mountains) we should see if the other out-of-town siblings could come to Edmonton for a few days too.  She bullied (very nicely) her sisters and brothers and in-laws to sign up for the 5km and 10 km races, if not for the half marathon.  At last count we'll have one son, three daughters, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law, and two nieces running.  Mary's 7-year old daughter, Layla, is registered to run one of the kids races too.

I'm hoping at some point all 36 of us will be together in one spot so I can get a group photo of our family. It'll be fun trying.

The last time we all got together was three years ago for my 60th birthday.  Here's what we looked like then.  Two people are missing from the picture and we've had four new additions since then.

MacKenzie Family Reunion 2008

So, today and tomorrow I'll be cooking and cleaning.  Amy is coordinating a pot luck lunch for Saturday, and those of us who live here in town will be hosting families for sleepovers.  And the weather seems to be cooperating so it should be a good time.

And you can bet I'll be posting pictures.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Boston What????

One of my bloggy friends was talking about retro recipes found in old community cookbooks and how gross some of them seem now,  but she makes them anyway.  That got me thinking of a family recipe that Lloyd's father used to make. 

SIL Cheryl, Me, FIL Ralph, SIL Joyce, MIL Thelma - 1970

They all enjoyed it and so did I once I joined the family and was served it and then learned to make it myself.  Dad always called it Boston Bitch! but when I started making it for our family we just called it Boston B.  It wasn't until they were adults that the kids finally learned what it's original name was.  Most of them didn't like it but I kept making it hoping they'd develop a taste for it.

Here's how it's made.  Try it - you'll like it...maybe.

1.  Brown a pound or so of ground beef, chopped onion, salt and pepper in a skillet until the meat is brown and crumbly.

2.  Put it in a large bowl and add leftover mashed potatoes (or 4-5 freshly cooked and mashed potatoes) and a can of condensed tomato soup.  Mix well.

3.  Put mixture in a casserole dish and heat in 350 oven until heated through.

4.  Serve with fresh vegetables.  I always put butter on the top of my serving.  It was especially good with home made onion/mustard pickles.

I haven't had it in years - must make some soon.

What retro recipes are hidden in your recipe collection?

A Very Social Bird

It's been fun having Eadie with me these past couple of days.  She's a very social bird and only goes in her cage to eat.  I've become used to her perching on my shoulder as I move about the house.  She even ate my pizza crust for me.

I have a radio beside her cage which I kept on low while scrapbooking.  I kept hearing the theme from Bridge On The River Kwai in the music.  Finally, remembering what Jenn told me, I turned the radio off and there it was - Eadie was whistling the tune, very sweet and clear, over and over, along with the occasional wolf whistle. I got a video of her doing it (I think) but can't get it off my camera.  If I ever figure it out, I'll post it.

I had Sara's kids over yesterday and they loved Eadie.  She went right to Max, I think she must be missing her own five boys.

Elly was timid but allowed Eadie to sit on her arm.

Charlie didn't want the bird on her at all but wanted to touch its back.  Didn't work too well.  Birds don't like being stroked like cats.  That's her blurry hand hovering over Eadie in the photo below.

That's as close as Charlie got to Eadie.

On a sad note, the kids' other grandmother passed away early yesterday morning - she was in her 80s and hospitalized for the past month or two.   Although not a shock, it is still upsetting for the family.  My son-in-law was the youngest of her 7 children.  Sara explained to the kids that Grandma is now with Grandpa and other friends and family so they shouldn't be too sad for her.  Charlie reminded me a couple of times that Papa and I are her only grandparents left.  I assured her that we'll be around for awhile and that Grandma was almost 25 years older than me.  Now I have to make sure that Lloyd and I stay healthy enough to continue to be part of the kids' lives for years to come.