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Jewels of the North
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Witches and Hot Pot
A Lightning Tour

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The Island of Crete

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Ancient Rome
Renaissance Rome

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Some tips on
Living Simply

Dandelions and window screens (and a wee bit more)

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By Pat Mestern

It is that time of the year again. I am harvesting my favourite free vegetable. It has more beta-carotene per gram than carrots. It is rich in fibre, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and the B vitamins. The weed is a source of boron, copper, cobalt, zinc and vitamin D. It has festivals devoted to it. It can be eaten raw, made into wine, jellies, eaten in any dish that calls for spinach, cooked by itself. It has great diuretic and tonic qualities. Grandmother make the most potent wine and claimed that it fought liver disease, cleansed her blood and lowered her blood pressure. I think she just used the claims as an excuse to have a little tipple every once in awhile. Recent studies do point to a reduction of serum cholesterol if dandelions are eaten.

What is this miracle plant? The humble dandelion! As long as they HAVE NOT been sprayed dandelions are an excellent green food, although they are a required taste. We eat the bitter leaves in salads, lasagna, jelly. The part of very young plants that "buds" at ground level (cut just below and just above ground level) makes a good early "asparagus" and can be frozen for later use. I like using plants that grow in the shade. They provide sweeter and longer greens. I leave a few in the garden and we eat dandelions all summer although the leaves are more bitter than first-of-season greens.

Cooking? Wash, cook with a wee bit of water until just limp, drain and top with a favourite dressing. Bacon and vinegar dressing is a Canadian favourite. Chop leaves into a lettuce salad. Substitute moderately in any dish that calls for spinach. Jelly? Use any recipe for mint jelly and substitute dandelion leaves chopped fine. The plant is there for your taking. It only requires your imagination.

Now for the questions

In the category of "Hair today-Gone tomorrow". Psst. This is a tip for the ladies. It is a delicate issue, guys and I'm only writing about it because quite a few ladies have asked about a substitute for harsh hair removal creams. For the answer we have harken back to the Second World War and the ultimate solution. It involves SANDPAPER. Yep, you read me right, very very fine sandpaper, #400 to #600 grade, and a lot of gentle "scrubbing" in a circular motion - a half dozen circles one way, a half dozen circles the next. I won't go into detail here but if you women in the audience want more information, e-mail me. I'm not selling anything, just giving the facts - and they are pretty good to.

Tired of buying eyeglass lens cleaner or using the tail of your shirt and really smearing the dirt? Try the following. Use a recyclable spray bottle that holds cup (What about the old lens cleaner bottle). Boil a cup of water and let it sit to cool. Pour into spray bottle. Add tsp white vinegar and one tiny drop of liquid dish detergent. Shake gently before using. Works like a charm on eye glass, computer screens, television screens, mirrors, picture glass . . .

Iron cooking utensils: Rulla, you didn't say how to contact you, but DON'T throw those old cast iron frying pans out because they have a grease build-up on their "bottoms". They are easily cleaned but you have to go camping to execute the plan. Get a hot wood fire going with lots of red hot coals. Enjoy your weinees than put all your old cast iron pans in the middle of the hot fire. Enjoy the sunset. Go to bed. In the morning, the fire will be out and your cast iron pans will be as clean as a whip. Don't touch them!. They will still be HOT. Do not drag these hot pots out of the fire and cool them with water! Wrong move! Have a swim. Go for a hike. Mid afternoon you should be able to retrieve your babies. Of course you will have to re-season the pans, but they will remain serviceable for years. I have frying pans and a griddle that are more than one hundred years old. They get a "fire bath" every 3-4 years.

Torn window screens? Here's a solution that doesn't involve replacing the entire screen. Cut a piece of screen larger than the hole. Strip the edges of the patch back until there is approximately one inch of loose wires protruding on all sides. Put the patch over the outside of the hole. Weave the loose wires into the main screen. Viola! If you can't be bothered weaving the loose wires, just turn a small edge in on every side and sew to the screen. Sewing is with one person on one side of the door, and one of the other. An added touch. Several people I know embroider motifs on these patches before installing them. I have seen some beauties - real artwork. One reads "WELCOME" and is decorated with flowers and butterflies. Well, why not if you have some spare time on your hands. One woman has made this a home based business - decorative screen patches!

Gunk in your kitchen and bath drains? I keep mine free of grease by mixing a large pitcher of hot salt water and pouring it down the offending drain, followed by several cups of vinegar.

What to do with old blankets that are not good enough for the bed and not bad enough to toss. My neighbour's solution is excellent and breaths new live into old covers. Stitch two (or three) old same size blankets together. Make a cover of two sheets sown like a pillow case - a la duvet cover. You want to be able to take the cover off and wash it occasionally. This makes a durable, pretty, warm comforter.

Under the category of a sad story and a lesson to be learned. Mid-February our old cat suffered a stroke. As Adam was nearly twenty years old and had been failing quickly, we anticipated a vet bill and prepared for it. We called vet clinics within a twelve mile radius and asked - how much for a consultation? - How much for "the final needle?" - How much to dispose of the remains". A consultation ranged from zero monies spent to $35.00. Administering "the needle" would cost from $30.00 to $66.00. Disposing of the remains ranged from "We'll freeze him and you can pick him up after spring thaw for burial on the home plot (that has to be a bizarre Canadianism, I have visions of freezers full of dogs and cats!) to $65.00! Moral of the story is that pet owners must choose their vet carefully. As a matter of fact before you even consider owning a pet, take into consideration all the expenses one can incur. Adam was known in the neighbourhood as our $1,300 cat. During his lifetime, that was the money we put out to keep him operational. As a farmer friend said. "My gosh. He's more expensive to fix than a cow."

Don't forget. For a really cheap vacation come to Canada where the U.S. dollar is worth between $1.45 and $1.50. You give out $1.00 U.S. You get approximately $1.47 (depends on where you exchange your money). That means you vaction for half price! Areas worth attention this summer. Visitors won't be disappointed with the Kitchener-Waterloo area of southern Ontario where a high percentage of our Mennonite and Amish people live amidst beautiful landscape, farm markets, quaint villages and friendly folk. Make this area your home base. Niagara Falls is only 1-½ hours away and accommodation is half the price of that at the Falls. Beautiful Great Lakes beaches are only 1-½ hours north and west.

Eastern Ontario, the 1000 Islands area, is also a good destination, along with our magnificant Capital City OTTAWA. Upper Canada Village, tours of the islands and great festivals are the fare in eastern Ontario.

Of course, there is no place like Cape Breton in Nova Scotia BUT this can be crowded during the summer. Better to plan a September vacation. Newfoundland is a great destination and bargain at any time. It is just an adventure to get there! Until next time . . .

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