Friday, 28 November 2008

My road has become a snow alley

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A Charlie Brown Christmas

It is a lovely snowy day with the temperature hovering around the freezing mark, and I am taking my time waking up. I should be dressed and getting ready for pottery, but it feels too good right here, and I know I will have to shovel out and brush the car and then deal with bad road conditions all the way from here to Mud Pies ... so I am being lazy.

Kenya is lying in her favourite spot hanging over the edge of the hill down to the lake. She is nudging a large stick and when it rolls down the hill she chases it and starts her game over again. She had a wonderful play day with Remi yesterday. Both dogs needed to get rid of pent-up energy and they were like healthy little kids going out for an hour rough housing and then coming in for cookies and heading back out to play as soon as they were warm and dry.

I have decided not to have a tree downstairs this year. I will decorate down there, but everything will be up high. This Christmas holiday Mud Mama and her whole brood will be here for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and then for the rest of the holiday it will just be me, the two adults, their husky, and the baby who is into everything and apparently delights in being naughty just now. And the dogs I will be boarding ... probably one more large dog in the house from the 23rd till mid-January.

I love Christmas ... everything about it ...the tree and its decorations ...the twinkling lights ... the snow ... the turkey feast ...the bustling of family ... the sharing of food, drink and gifts. But this year I am going to keep things simple so that the kids and dogs will not get themselves into trouble.

So ... Instead I am going to have three Christmas trees upstairs ... one in each of the windows facing the lake. They will be tiny tabletop trees from the woods and will be wonderful night lights for children heading to bed and lovely surprises for us whenever we go upstairs. I may even put one in the bathroom.

My father was the world's best tree decorator and I don't remember a single shoddy tree from my childhood, but his best tree was a tiny Charlie Brown specimen that he cut on his farm and decorated with miniature lights and tiny wooden decorations. It had about ten branches and each one had been lovingly festooned with carefully placed foil that reflected the lights. I loved that Christmas when the goose was larger than the tree.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Palestinian Dress

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Bringing Home Your Travels

What do you bring home from your travels?

I bring home recipes, hobbies, kitchen utensils, household goods, and clothing.

Every time I use a Kenyan wooden rolling pin I am taken back to the market.

Whenever I pass the wall hangings from Mongolia I return to the steppes, to Ulaan Baatar and to friends I made there, especially Seema who gave me the second of these.

Each time I make something felted I am back in a dining room in Wolfville where Mud Mama taught Arrow, Max and me how to felt.

Most of the clothing I bring back I wear, and when I do, I remember its origins, but there are several pieces of clothing that I almost never wear. These hang on closet doors and are simply reminders of wonderful trips and experiences.

One is a Palestinian hand embroidered black dress that I bought in a store in Amman. The mother of one of my students gave me a richly coloured silk sash and creamy lace hejab to go with it and showed me where she kept the key to her house. She was a wonderful feisty woman who refused to be a hidden woman when her husband died and was by tradition, to move into her son's home to be under his care. She insisted on a key of her own, and she created a secret pocket in the embroidered bodice of her dress to hold it.

I have three African dresses and as many Mongolian traditional dresses or dels, and each has its own story to tell, but I will save those stories for other posts.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Kisses on the Lake

This morning the lake looks as if it has been kissed randomly all over its surface.

And those heated kisses (like some I have known) have been explosive, creating spider webs all over the smooth surface.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Blob

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Happiness is Unbloggable

November 25, 2008
Some things are just not bloggable ...

I am pretty open about what I consider bloggable ... perhaps too open for some tastes. Menopausal symptoms and other details about aging, minutiae about felting projects and doggy clients, and my weather updates, for instance, may be too unpleasant or too boring to warrant posts. I do, however, lead a pretty tame life, and if I am to blog, it will be about what is in my own restricted world, a world that shrinks each year.

It occurred to me yesterday that my interests have changed considerably since I moved to the lake ... blogging ... dogs ... cooking and baking ... felting and knitting ... and raising healthy house plants. I have never raised healthy house plants before and this is my first blogging experience, but animals have always made me happy, and the other housewifely pursuits are all reminiscent of the things that gave me pleasure during the most contented time in my life ... when I was living in an old school house in the country and raising children. But I am discovering that happiness is not very bloggable.

I won't be blogging about my new love interest because I have no idea where that is going, and that is about the only interesting thing happening in my life. I feel a bit like the woman in "You've Got Mail" every time I turn on the computer, and it is fun to feel as if my sap has begun to flow again. But I won't blog about that ... at least not until he becomes a fixture in my life ... and then he will probably be one of the boring things I blog about.

Old Tango went home yesterday and I feel as I always do when a dog I like leaves ... partly relieved of the extra work ... partly sad because he became part of the family for a short time. I have received a few inquiries about sitting during December and January, and my pocketbook will certainly be happy about that. Kenya will be too. They are all young dogs who will play with her: a 7 month old Bernese, another 3 year old Bernese, and Remi, the Golden Doodle pup and her best buddy. We get to meet Maggie the three year old Bernese on Sunday afternoon.

I have finished four pairs of felted slippers: two for adults and two for children. I like three of the prototypes and have learned quite a bit as I have progressed. One thing I have learned is not to use the bootie pattern again. It makes a wearable slipper but is knit on too small needles and I don't like the way it felted up. Sort of bloblike in appearance. I will post a photo as soon as my dial-up connection allows me to. I think the dog geegaw saves it from being tossed aside as just too ugly. I am going to cut inner soles for it so that it has more body, but I will wait till I have Max's feet here to do that.

Today I will shovel the new snow, go for a real walk with Kenya and finish up the leg warmers. And maybe I will discipline myself sufficiently to finish Max's striped sweater. I should because tomorrow I am going to buy more wool and then it will be even harder to finish up the tedious work of sewing in threads. It is always much more exciting to start a new project. I can't make any more slippers till people send me their footprints ... but I do want to get started on tea cozies.

Monday, 24 November 2008

I love living on a lake ...

It snowed last night and the black, just frozen surface of the lake turned white. I really do love living in a land of seasonal changes and on a lake where those changes are so immediately apparent.
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Saturday, 22 November 2008

Geriatric Meanderings

Every time I walk Tango I am reminded of how closely my own aging life parallels his elderly meandering strolls.

Kenya bounds all over the place playing with sticks, chasing wild life and generally exercising every muscle. When I walk alone with her my own progress is more energetic and I have a sense of purpose, a destination.

Tango strolls and seldom in a straight line. We avoid changes in elevation as much as is possible in this terrain. He simply follows his nose from one interesting patch of snow or grass to the next, stopping to pee every so often, and I follow. His peeing seems random but it is likely some almost forgotten memory of sex or power that starts the flow. And when it starts it is seldom any kind of purposeful stream that emerges. Rather he dribbles absent mindedly in a sort of zig zag pattern walking and peeing simultaneously.

Occasionally he seems to be on a trajectory whose destination has been pre-determined and he forges ahead, sometimes fast enough that I have to let go of his leash or risk being dragged off my feet on these slippery hills.

Every since I really retired (a couple of years ago, not 11 years ago when I quit my paying job), my life, like his walks, has become somewhat aimless. Oh I sniff the flowers and pay attention to things that catch my fancy, but the energy and purpose that marked every aspect of my life have dissipated, like perfume in a breeze. Today I choose whether to exert myself or to take on a project, and I have no interest any more in the bigger projects that demand months or years of my life.

I quite like this stage of being. I like small felting, knitting or pottery projects that can be picked up or put down at will. I like being able to rest or play in between.

Tango goes for a walk and then sleeps on the warm floor for double the time he exerted himself outdoors in the nippy air. I was once a Type A personality whose work was her play. Now I am more like Tango ... a little exertion ... a lot of relaxation.

I like my life but I do not feel nearly as productive as I did when I was teaching or writing seriously. A big difference now is that I am content to say "I am" rather than "I am a teacher or a writer".

Like Tango who is content to be a dog whose greatest pleasures are to be found in a food bowl or a caring human friend, I am content to be a woman who enjoys friends, food and wine ... with a few spices like felting slippers thrown into the mix.

And like Tango, I can be fooled into thinking my life is more exciting than it is if someone offers me a handful of kibble and tells me the bits and pieces are treats.

Carlos' Unfinished Floppy Slipper

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Carlos' First Slipper

This one is a challenge because one of the woollens I used did not felt well so it is floppy rather than stiff. No smart remarks about this or Carlos will be ticked off. Anyway I will post a photo in a few minutes.

Maybe someone out there has a suggestion that does not entail starting over!

Friday, 21 November 2008

Yip, yip, yippee ay oh!

At 2 a.m. Kenya and I were awakened by a party. It was one of those moving parties. You know the block parties at Christmas where people have one course in each of several houses on the street. In this case the participants were moving very quickly using our woods as a conduit to get to the main course.

The yipping went on for only a few short minutes and then there was silence. That was when Kenya came over to me and asked to go outside. "No," I said firmly. "You are not wild enough."

She climbed into bed with me and went back to sleep leaving me to think about the party.

It was likely coyotes chasing deer. Rutting season sees a lot of deer on the run and on the roads (and partying themselves).

Last year one ran straight into my almost stopped car so OW gave me a pair of deer deflectors. They sit on my front bumper and apparently warn deer away. Since I have put them on I have seen several deer who watch me intently from the bush near the road. They stop, watch and then move in the opposite direction. I think maybe the deflectors hurt their ears.

I wonder what they think of the coyotes' yip,yip,yippee, ay, oh. Do they imagine the Lone Ranger coming to join the party? Do they even hear them when they are in a state of high sexual excitement?

I love it when I am awakened by a party in the woods, isn't everyone?

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Forgotten Woes and Warm Legs

This morning Tango again woke up feeling frisky. It is as if he forgets his age after a good night's sleep. He bounced, was very interested in Kenya's nether regions, and insisted on the patriarch's right to be first out the door. Then reality set in when he discovered once again that he needs to lean on a rock if he is to pee standing up instead of squatting. But after several dribbles he was happily on his way back inside to enjoy the warmth of the in-floor heating and some kibbly bits which we have conned him into thinking are cookies.

Kenya wakes up much as I do ... slowly. There is a cadenced rhythm to her mornings. First she climbs into bed with me and curls up against me so that I can stroke her head and neck. After that we both relax and just enjoy the comfort of knowing we have bed buddies. When I go downstairs she heads out to pee and I set the kettle on to boil. She arrives back and eats her Dentistick in her crate. Then she is quite content to follow me up to the den where she hangs out with me till I have had my tea, read my emails and written some morning words.

I am sleeping well again. I think it is CBC's recommendation of daily lentils and rice to settle adrenal glands plus the extra water and the homeopathic whose first ingredient is Bushmaster snake venom that I started taking for hot flashes and night sweats.

I am making leg warmers so that I can wear skirts all winter long even with sub-zero temperatures and dogs. This pair is a jewel-like purple with a multicolour section at the top (or bottom). I had made fingerless mitts for myself with beautiful wool from Nova Scotia and had lots left. There are strains of mauve and gold and all colours in between in it and it feels good in my fingers as I knit on bamboo needles.

Today I may start Carlos' slippers or maybe start on a tea cozy. Or perhaps I will discipline myself and sew in the loose ends of Max's striped sweater and put it together.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A Very Short Post

I have eaten well today, taken several short walks because it is slippery for poor old Tango, finished one leg warmer and the second Tammy slipper as far as I can go without her foot for the final fitting.

Of course I have done more than that since 6 a.m. but I am hard pressed to tell you what!

Swept and shoveled the 61 steps outdoors, got rid of compost, dealt with recycling, scraped my windshield with my fingernails because the trunk was frozen shut, moved the car to its safe winter location, borrowed lock de-icer and a scraper from Clare and Tom, delivered a movie to them, watched a movie (Forest Gump) while knitting ... and generally had a pleasant day.

Tomorrow I will go to town to see what the alternative health care clinic has to offer, buy a few grocery essentials, try to get my trunk open, write emails and look after myself and dogs ... and start on Carlos' slippers.

His will be made of felted sweaters like Tammy's but will be more like moccasins I think. He is very handsome so I think perhaps charcoal grey or black ... but what kind of special trim or signature for these ones?

Tomorrow is another day and I will make those decisions then.

Now it is time for the last outing of the day with my dogs.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Felting with Dogs

There are felted sweaters on every counter top, the table is covered with pattern pieces, buttons, felting needles, inner soles, thread and wool, and I cannot see the floor for the scatter mats and sleeping dogs. I alternate food preparation for all of us with short burst of walks and craft projects now that Old Tango is here.

Kenya has adjusted to his presence in an interesting way. She doesn't even think of asking if he wants to play. She realizes he is a different species of being. But she has also become very quiet in the way she deals with her role as mom dog. Tango invariably comes into the kitchen when I am cooking and there just is not room for him to be there safely so I tell him , "Out of the kitchen," and herd him out. A few minutes later he is back but Kenya is hovering behind him. I tell her to leave and she does and I praise her. Then I tell him to leave and he obeys and gets praise too. The third time Kenya sees him heading back in she gets there first and walks him gently back out. No yippy bitching, no noise at all in fact ... just doing her job in a way that works well.

She is an amazingly adaptable girl ... and very bright.

I have finished the first of Tammy's slippers. I used a loden green sweater and cut three pieces plus the inner sole to create a slip-on that is cooler than the bootie types are. Tammy hates shoes and this is the closest thing to barefoot I could come up with. One of the top pieces laps over the other and will be secured with a very pretty piece of jewellery that goes well with the green. The inner sole is felted to the slipper sole. Right now it is a different colour from the slipper but I could felt something onto it that works better with the loden than dark red does. The problem is that the felted covering would get rubbed off by the friction of her feet. Hmmn! Need to do some more thinking about this.

This kind of work is all consuming for me. Everything takes much longer than it would take someone with inherently different skills. I have no sense of spatial relationships so going from a sole to a slipper requires an intelligence I don't have. I have to try things out and actually have the finished pieces in my hands to see what I have done wrong. I am using newspaper to make patterns first so that I don't destroy too much of the felted material, but it doesn't always work.

It also takes me much longer to thread a needle these days! And I managed to break five felting needles at once by not holding the tool perpendicular to the material. Mud Mama did warn me when she was giving me my first lesson in felting.

But I am having fun. I couldn't make a whole bunch of slippers that were alike but making each one unique is proving to be fun.

Don't forget to send me your soles if you want a pair in the basket to greet you when you visit.

Cute toucan, eh?

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A little of this ...

The slippers in the last photo were knit and then felted ... and then I added a pair of toucans I had hanging around. I still have to add a hidden button for anyone who wants really cozy.

Today I will be working on the second idea. I start with felted wool and cut out the pattern pieces and then sew the slipper together with a blanket stitch. I have a feeling they will be bulkier and also sturdier, but I am afraid they might not be as neat and tidy because the process of felting covers a lot of mistakes, and these new ones have been felted before the mistakes are made.

Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained and besides I will have lots of adoring eyes on me as I work. Old Tango is doing fine and Kenya realizes he is too old to harry as she does younger dogs. I think she is confused by the juxtaposition of infirmity and calm assurance that he is still THE GUY.

After breakfast we will go out for a walk. ( I expect Tango and I will walk while Kenya plays and chases sticks.)

Prototype Number 1

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Monday, 17 November 2008

Finally ...

Kenya has been sending me strong messages since yesterday.

"It is no fun playing by myself," she said this morning as she flipped a kong under the table, and stomped to the back door where she flopped down heavily with a hard done by sigh.

"I just want to finish knitting this slipper foot," I told her finally, "and then we will go out."

Well then I had to do some seams. All the while Kenya glowered at me from her doorway.

Finally I went upstairs to wash and dress. Kenya followed me into the bathroom and from there into the bedroom. Each new location was announced noisily with a thump as eighty pounds hit the floor.

Down to the front hall. Bundling into a jacket and my hiking boots. Putting a couple of good cookies in my pocket. Then the camera. And finally her collar and leash. Only then did the suspicious glowering look leave completely. Suddenly she turned back into my cheerful fellow adventurer.

But she made sure as we headed up the hill to pull me away from the direction of the steps because that way led to the car. And she wanted to walk.

As soon as she was sure that we were indeed going for a real walk her ears perked up and her step became light and bouncy.

We stopped to say hi to Tom enroute and then we headed up to the gated logging road by his place. It has woods on both sides and lots of hills. There is a fast moving stream and most importantly ... lots of sticks. It has been off bounds for the past couple of weeks because of hunting season, but today the gate was locked to strangers and safe from hunters, so it was our destination.

As soon as I unhooked her leash she was off, nose to the ground, following a trail. Then her head rose as she sniffed the air expectantly. A grouse hurried out of its hiding place and she made a half hearted attempt to chase it, but it was not a serious thing. She learned long ago that birds have wings and she doesn't.

She found some large sticks and allowed me to break them into manageable pieces and then we played her favourite game.

"Drop one," I commanded.

No response except for a bounce away from me.

"Drop one please."

She nudged me so that I held one stick lightly. Then she delicately dropped the other one. I picked it up and tossed it into the woods. She watched carefully where it landed, dropped her other stick by the edge of the road and made her way over logs and brush to get the one I had thrown. On her way back she picked up the second stick and arrived at my side panting around the two sticks in her mouth.

"Drop one."

This time she dropped one immediately and bounded off in pursuit.

After a while she became more alert and the sticks became secondary. I sensed that something unusual was in the vicinity. I call this road the bear road, so we turned around just before we got to the stream she likes. When the gate came into view I attached the leash and we headed back sedately to our own road. Then I removed collar and leash and we played fetch all the way home.

I went in but she chose to stay outside and take a swim in the frigid waters of the lake. By the time she asked to come indoors her coat was stiff with ice.

Now she is curled up on her couch drying off and warming up. It has been a good morning for both of us.

In a few minutes I will go down and make banana bread and pear clafouti from the fruit that need to be eaten up, and then I will knit the second cuff for the prototype of the first kind of felted slippers I am making. Once that pair is put together and ready to be felted, I will start on the second type which is made from felt I have made from old knit goods. All the insoles will be made from a mohair blanket I felted. I have to figure out how to give the slippers a bit of grab on the bottoms ... maybe leather?

Any ideas? Or do I need them for adults' slippers? My floors are not slippery slidy unless you are an eighty some year old dog whose hind end doesn't work well. He comes this afternoon by the way.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Swirling Snow and Grey Skies

Today is a day to cozy up to the fire, read and work on craft projects, but yesterday was a busy day.

Saturday Outing

Yesterday was fun, and I surprised myself by being able to stay awake past my usual bedtime.

We started the day at the pottery show. I didn't buy anything ... just looked and got ideas and wished I had money and space for some of the pieces. I met my daughter Soozoom, my pottery teacher and a fellow student so it turned out to be a very social occasion.

Our little entourage of four continued on to the bead exhibit at the RA Centre. Whew! Wonderful creations but most were well beyond my budget. (I had a pocket full of loonies and toonies.) But I did buy a handful of $2 beads to use as part of my slipper felting project.

Then we went to Manotick Station where we ate deli sandwiches out in the cold and then went in to the bazaar. It was wildly coloured, frenetic and crowded ... a little overwhelming. Mandara raced from one display to the next gathering goodies, while Tammy, Carlos and I were a little more selective. Tammy bought a musical instrument made from a gourd and shells and I bought an Afghan rug to put in front of my leather couch.

Afterwards we drove Mandara home and we brought all the dogs up to the lake where we had dinner and drank wine till 10 p.m.

Later this afternoon the ancient Sheep Dog will begin his weeklong adventure.

Afghan carpet

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Beads on felted sweaters

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Blue Mood, an oasis of Kenyan serenity at the bazaar

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Third World Bazaar

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The Ottawa Guild Pottery Show

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Saturday, 15 November 2008


Just a short post today as I have places to go and things to see ...

Yesterday I received the good news from the biopsy and the scans ... no cancer ... I can't say I felt relieved or ecstatic, to be honest. I don't think I ever really thought there was a real possibility of it. Denial maybe. But no one in my family that I know of ever had had a cancer that was liable to be genetically caused. And more importantly, I didn't feel sick enough for it to be likely.

I didn't have enough cash to pay the $13.00 parking charge but the nice man at the machine changed the numbers and took my $10.

Then I ran some errands, bought some wool, stopped to say a belated Happy Birthday to Carlos, and came home to Kenya.

Today Tammy, Carlos and I are going to the first annual hand made bead exhibition, the Ottawa Guild Potters' Show, and the Third World Bazaar. Lots of beautiful colourful things to see ... no money to buy ... but a feast for the eyes anyway.

I will take my camera with me.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

I love mail ...

I have been receiving lovely surprises in my mail box and email inbox lately. A friend I took courses with at Oxford in 1999 and 2000 just got in touch via email. A Kenyan jeweller I knew well in Kenya sent a note today ... just a how are you catch-up note telling me he and his family are doing well. And Ted Kerasote responded to my fan letter with good wishes for Kenya and me.

I also received a notice from the Golden Rescue people. Oh how sorely tempted I am by some of these dogs. But then reason prevails. It is one thing to arrange doggy care for one dog; quite another for two. If I had two I would be less likely to take in boarders. I can barely afford to feed and pay for vet care for one big girl now! So I just look ... and long.

This is Whisky, the same age as Kenya. Wouldn't he make a fine playmate?

We met the old Tango yesterday. He is quite feeble as far as his back legs are concerned but a nice boy and pretty healthy otherwise. He and Kenya got on fine and his owner is going to bring scatter mats so that he can travel around the slate floors more easily by going from one soft place to the next. He would have liked to settle into Kenya's crate but she cried piteously at her favourite refuge being appropriated so I locked the door and gave him the blanket that covers Kenya's couch. Both dogs were fine with that arrangement.

I think when he comes to stay on the 16th I will put his bed in the open front hall closet across from Kenya's crate, and I will block the staircase. So if any of my friends come to visit you will find a place that looks a bit like a house of rags and tatters. Boots on the hall floor, a ladder across the staircase opening, and scatter mats everywhere in the house. Oh well!

Today I am going to do all the indoor jobs I have been putting off. Freezing rain will keep me indoors.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

a closer look

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one of my own

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The Brain and the Tango

First Real Book Club Meeting ...

Not quite a consensus, but few people had managed to finish reading This is Your Brain on Music, and even those who felt it had been a worthwhile endeavour were critical of the writing style, the quality of the arguments put forward, and the organization of the book.

Some people were genuinely interested in the technicalities of music. One was totally disinterested in the connections between the brain and music. But I think what almost all of us felt was that while the book may have been a dud, thinking about the complexity of the human brain was interesting.

One member suggested that a very different format would have made the study interesting ... using only four pieces of music and having the presentation multi-media rather than in book form. And forgetting about the first section except as an appendix of some kind.

So ... as a first draft that should not have been hastily published, The Brain does have some potential, but Leviton has to get rid of his "Look at Me! Look at Me!" sophomoric style of interacting with his readers/audience.

The to-ing and fro-ing of the discussion, the wine and snacks were certainly worthwhile.

Tango ...

Today I get to meet a new Tango. He is an old, un-neutered Old English Sheepdog who likely has one more year to enjoy life on this earth. He is medicated, has glucosamine in his water, and cannot climb stairs. He likes leisurely sniff about walks and is unlikely to be very interested in playing with Kenya. Anyway we will see how this meeting goes. If the hill is manageable for him and if he and Kenya hit it off, it would mean about 8 days of dog sitting which would be nice financially He is the grandfather of Wilbur, the sheep dog I used to walk.

I have been putting off dealing with onerous chores so the rest of my day will likely be spent cleaning my den, dealing with bills, and making a big pot of stew. But I think I will manage to sneak in a few pages of Lullabies and maybe start those slippers. And Kenya and I will go for another off leash walk now that the hunters have left our woods. I suspect that Tango's walks will have to involve Kenya being off leash. It would be painful otherwise.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

A Jumble of News

Well ... lots of news:

I keep forgetting to blog about the beautiful healthy coyote I saw dead in the ditch on Mountain Road on Friday. S/he had been hit by a car and I felt as saddened as I would have if it had been someone's pet. It was the first time I have seen a coyote close up. Its incisors were half the size of Kenya's and s/he likely weighed about 15 pounds less than Kenya ... not skinny at all, just a well proportioned smaller animal. And certainly not at all feral looking ... or wily.

I have finished Merle's Door and written a letter to the author thanking him for restoring my faith in my own dog rearing philosophy.

I just started reading another book on the Book Club list: Heather O'Neill's Lullabies for Little Criminals. I was captivated from the first page.

I've been baking and cooking up a storm and enjoying the Suzie Homemaker feeling that comes over me when I tip loaves of homemade bread onto the counter and look out over my healthy house plants at the lake beyond.

I spent a few hours yesterday painting stars with glaze to help Carrie prepare for her show next weekend. We munched on the chocolate zucchini bread I had brought with me. Carrie asked me if I would consider sitting a potbellied pig. She is thinking about getting one this spring but needs to know that she has a reliable care back-up plan.

I've also received a couple of queries about dog sitting. Yay! Some money-making potential finally!

I have been working on a sweater for Arrow for Christmas, and I also want to make a basket of felted slippers to keep at the front door, so if you visit often, please get me an outline of your feet or your favourite slippers.

As part of this project I contacted a Mongolian friend to ask for Mongolian patterns for slippers and boots. Seema didn't have information on felting at her finger tips but said she would hunt for it. Then she posed a question: "Would I consider coming to Mongolia for six weeks this spring to conduct lessons for ESL teachers?" Well ... that was certainly a surprise ... but I felt that old excited whoosh of anticipation surge up and asked a few questions myself to determine whether I could do it.

I just received a copy of my friend Philippe's novel in the mail yesterday, and Claire's chemo is producing good results ... her tumour is shrinking.

So ... life is good and I feel younger now that there is promise in the air.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

My Cathy Payne Casserole Dish

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Life is Good

Two Books and an Art and Pottery Show

I handed over The Brain on Music to my book buddy who called me yesterday to ask what the hell was wrong with her. She couldn't read the damned thing. She had no desire to know every single technicality about music. I laughed and told her to forget the first chapter. The book was not wonderful but that first chapter was deadly because it was written in such boringly dense and unnecessarily complex prose.

It did improve. Eventually I began to interact with the material ... perhaps by chapter 4 or 5 ... and by the time I was skimming the last chapter in order to pass on the book, I was thinking I might re-read the final bit, if not for pleasure, at least for information.

In contrast, Merle's Door is also well researched and filled with information, but I like reading it. The style is engaging and down to earth. The voice of the writer as he deals with his subject is that of a man I can relate to. Unlike The Brain's Leviton, Kerasote never sinks to name dropping or veiled braggadocio.

There were so many parallels ... brain activity research ... historical and anthropological tracings ... two men intimately connected with their subjects ... an interest in autism ... comparisons of theories about the subjects ... that it became very easy to note the differences.

One difference was the fact that I was far more interested in how dogs and people interact than in how music affects the brain, but I wasn't completely disinterested in the other subject. If Leviton had been a more human writer; if he hadn't puffed himself up; if he'd come down from his university lectern more often, I would have found his subject far more interesting than I did.

And that first chapter ... whew! ... wonder where his editor was when that appeared right up front instead of at the end as an appendix. Probably asleep ... and too impressed by the writer's credentials to be helpfully critical.

I have a few more pages to read in Merle's Door. Last night I couldn't see through my tears to read on. Merle was failing and Kerasote was having a difficult time knowing what to do; when to intervene and say enough. Any of us who have had to make that decision will understand.

Yesterday my only social excursions were to the Nearly New Shop where I spent less than $10 on sweaters for Arrow and felting, and to Cathy Payne and Dave Fisher's show.

Dave's work is always professional but Cathy's work is growing by leaps and bounds.

She is doing really interesting things with glazing and with texture, and has started making bottomless pieces that are thrown on the wheel and cut apart. Then she uses slab which she imprints with lace to make the sides and bottoms. Sometimes she just makes the bottomless pots, distorts their shape and makes textured slab bottoms. The result is some wonderful pieces. If I had had money I'd have bought far more than I did. I came away with a very small casserole dish that can be used to cook one or two portion casseroles or to serve vegetables.

Back at the lake I spent the rest of the day baking. Today I will get outside with Kenya, do some more baking and make a curried pumpkin mushroom soup ... and Tammy and Carlos will be coming with the boys. Kenya will be delighted to have some canine buddies around.

Life is good! Enjoy this wonderful fall Sunday.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Happy Birthday, Deb

Happy Birthday, Deb

Today is my daughter's 51st birthday. It seems strange to me that we are both enduring hot flashes and night sweats now. Fifty years ago I was enduring hormonal fluctuations and demands while she was still needing her diapers changed. It seems that the older we get, the closer our ages become. My group of friends includes people of all ages and many are younger than my children.

But I am not 51 and my body reminds me of that fact quite often now.

Last weekend I went out for lunch and to an art show with friends who are younger, and decided by 3 p.m. that I needed to go home to the serenity of the lake and just veg out with my dog. They continued on to other pursuits.

This weekend I planned to go to many different art shows, see a play at the Elmdale Tavern, and generally keep happily busy for three days and evenings.

But, reality intervened.

On Friday morning, I walked Kenya and then went to my pottery class where I laboured for three hours on a bread baker. (Slab plus coil for anyone interested.) By the time I finished the building I was exhausted, fed up with it and my stomach was growling. And then Carrie noted that the base was too thin for the sides so it had to be re-done and attached.

Before I could go home though, I had to photocopy a set of directions for some fingerless mitts and send them off to an email-less friend in Barrie. By the time I got home the growling had become thunderous and then sullen.

I boiled two eggs and wolfed them down with toasted whole wheat challah bread, and then felt awful: bloated, nauseous and sweating profusely. I thought maybe a hot bath and a nap would help... it didn't ... maybe a 2 mile walk with Kenya ... uh uh. By the time I got home again I was feeling no better, just more exhausted. And I had to go to an art show at 6:30 and then entertain friends for dinner.

I took meat out of the freezer and planned the menu. And then I realized I did not have to do this. I could phone and cancel. As soon as I did, the world came back into focus. I could breathe again. Life was once again manageable.

I can no longer overload my plate, it seems ... either with food or commitments. I need to maintain a quiet pace of life with regular meals and a balance between being alone with my own thoughts and opening myself to new experiences.

I will try to get to Cathy and Dave's show this afternoon ... it is in Chelsea. And maybe I will check out the Nearly New Shop in Chelsea as well while I do my grocery shopping.

And, then, I think I will spend the rest of the weekend baking 3 different kinds of bread with the giant zucchini I grated yesterday, making a curried pumpkin and mushroom soup and more challah bread, and listening to Stuart MacLean when Tyler's story will be read. And I will invite my friends to share food with me here and tell me all about what they saw at the Bead show, the 260 Fingers show and the art exhibit at the old Creighton Street School.

I will also continue reading Merle's Door, a book that makes me very glad I too have a free thinking dog.

I hope you have a wonderful day and weekend, Deb, and that this birthday is special.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Waking Up to a More Hopeful World

I don't know whether it will be a new world with Obama elected in the USA but symbolically it is important for a number of reasons besides the most obvious one; that he is the first African American president in a country whose black population has been struggling for almost the entire 232 year history of that country.

It signals the possibility of a radical shift from the policies of the Bush era. This new president has roots in the developing world and in the African American world of the USA. He cannot help but be influenced by his own history.

He is young and energetic, and his vitality has sparked something far more positive in the USA than the terrible fear that has pervaded that country and influenced all of its policies since 911, a fear that continues today during the current economic crisis. It is as though he has awakened the electorate. People who were either too timid, too disinterested or too downtrodden to participate in the political process are now involved, just as they were during the Vietnam protests and during the Civil Rights Movement days in the United States.

It has been a long time coming, and change won't happen overnight, but at least now there is hope.

My own world is also feeling more hopeful. I have reconnected in positive ways with several old friends this year, three of them in the past few days, and I have established connections with some new people whom I think may become friends. Many of those friends are doing interesting things with their lives in exciting creative ways. One is active politically. Another has just published a novel that has emerged from a two year long mourning period. A couple are producing some wonderful art; one of these seems to have awakened from a long sleep, and I feel inspired by her newfound enthusiasm. Another is becoming a star in her own field and she seems to glow with positive energy these days.

And one has simply reconnected in a very personal way that has lifted a heaviness from my heart.

As for my own activities, I have some ideas for those felted slippers, and I've even managed to read a few chapters of The Brain on Music. I still don't like it much but at least I have figured out why, so I don't feel like a complete loser every time I pick it up with a disgruntled sigh.

Today I hope to finish the book, cook a pumpkin, make a zucchini bread, and spend some time outdoors with Kenya enjoying this wonderful weather. And maybe I will start cutting out pattern pieces for the first pair of slippers.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Brains, Moo Moo Cows and Free Thinkers

I tried off and on again yesterday to read the book club selection, Your Brain on Music by Daniel Leviton, and was unsuccessful. I guess if you were really into music it might be riveting, but I'm not so sure. The author suggested that people who were musicians or were knowledgeable, skim the first chapter.

Since my only formal encounters with music occurred between the ages of 6 and 11 when I took piano lessons, I felt I'd better plow my way through it. I have managed pp 13-38 and have 27 pages to finish the chapter tantalizingly entitled "What is Music?" The writing style is as deadly as the choice of title. How, I kept asking myself, did this book become a New York Times bestseller?

If it doesn't catch me and hold me today I am going to give up and hand the book over to Sharon with whom I am sharing the cost of the books on the list.

I sure hope the other books suggested by the group leader are better choices, but the first book, like any respectable first chapter, should grab the reader immediately. Don't you agree? And it should not be 65 pages of hard labour.

I would like to be able to like the book. Honestly. And every once in a while I find myself thinking, "Yes ... that's the way it happens in literature or art," but mostly I find myself acting like an ADD kid who starts counting the pages to the end instead of concentrating.

I really want to get back to Ted Kerasote's book, Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog.

And some of the other book club selections look good enough to read too.

This is the first time I have been part of a book club so I am not sure of the etiquette. If you hate the book and can't read it, do you go to that meeting anyway or do you keep your opinions (based on ignorance as they are) at home?

Earlier this year I read Virginia Ironside's wonderful hoot of a book, No! I Don't Want to Join a Bookclub: a diary of growing old disgracefully, and liked it so much I wrote to her. I wonder if she has a fan club made up of people unable to deal with book clubs. Do they get together and discuss unreadable books?

Have any of you got past the first chapter of The Brain?

When I was in university I couldn't get past the first chapter of James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I kept gagging on the moo moo cow segment. Years later I told an Irish friend I should probably read it; that my education must be sadly lacking. She said it was probably unnecessary now, but I decided to try again. Surprisingly I liked it fine and slid right past the moo moo cow without incident. Maybe that will happen with The Brain in thirty years. I will be 98 then.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Home Body

I ventured out into the real world yesterday and discovered that while there are interesting things out there, I really am just a homebody who longs to get home to her hermitage in the hills.

Tammy, Carlos and I went to a Mexican place in the Glebe for lunch. I had the Mexican Flag (enchiladas) and loved the whole dish ... especially the green and creamy white sauces. Then we headed off to the textile artists' show where we met up with Yvonne and her friend. There were really innovative things being woven.

Predictably, I was drawn to the felting exhibits, and learned a few new things about constructing shapes and the variety of bases on which to build. Several people were weaving and felting with dog hair. One was making cat toys with it.

But I was also intrigued by the work of Denise Atkinson who weaves metals into beautiful jewellery, especially her chain link bracelet woven from several metals. It felt like fabric it was so soft on my wrist. My urge to buy it was restrained by a lack of cash. And really, where would I wear it anyway? Mary Ann obviously had places to go and people to see for she bought a gift there and a piece of sea glass jewellery for herself.

Tammy bought scraps of felting wool and silkworm cocoons to incorporate into her own art, and Yvonne bought felted mittens and a great pair of lime green felted slippers. Carlos tried on brightly coloured felted hats with Mercury wings, but, like me, he came home empty handed. My pockets, however, were filled with the cards of felting suppliers and a hastily made-up card from Denise. That chain link bracelet keeps on whispering sweet nothings in my ear.

I decided to try making felted slippers myself and maybe incorporating silkworm cocoons into the design. They won't be as wonderful as the $200 custom made slippers with the elfin faces that Yvonne didn't buy or as glorious as the ones she did buy, but they will be fun to have for guests to put on when they leave their boots at the door.

It was late afternoon when we left, and the others continued on to the Market for coffee and another art show there. I just wanted to go home ... so I picked up Kenya at Tammy's and headed back up to the hills. They were predicting freezing rain for today so I parked 1/4 kilometre away to avoid the need to climb a slippery hill with summer tires.

Today I am going to get down to the job of reading the first book for the book club: Your Brain on Music. Why does it feel suddenly as if I have homework? Maybe because I had started to read another book I was finding really interesting? Or maybe because there is a deadline? Or maybe I have simply become really self indulgent in my old age. Maybe I like the sensation of floating through life with as few boundaries or restrictions as possible.

Anyway my day will be spent reading the book, going out to a neighbourhood coffee party at 10:30, and fitting in dog walks between the rain drops. And I might just design the first pair of slippers.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Tidying Up and Looking Ahead

Yesterday I baked bread ... whole wheat challah from a recipe I received by email ... and banana bread from all those bananas that almost didn't make it through the storm. Kenya and I were finally able to deliver food to Barry. Gerry, his next neighbour, says Barry is getting spoiled; that he can't possibly eat everything we bring; that he'd be glad to help out.

I also sorted out my calendar so that I won't miss the things I really want to do this month. I don't mean the regular things like pottery class and the book club evening, or the doctor's appointment; I mean the art and craft shows that are all on before Christmas.

So far my next three weekends look like this!

November 2 Ottawa Valley Spinners and Weavers with Tammy and Yvonne

November 8 Marta is telling stories at the National Library from 10-12
Cathy and Dave have a show from 1-5

November 9 The 260 Fingers Pottery show is on all afternoon

November 13-16 The Ottawa Valley Potters' Show ... I think I will go after my doctor's appointment at the Riverside on Friday.

I am hoping to learn things at all the shows but especially this afternoon as these fabric artists are working with all kinds of materials and many also have sheep for felting materials.

Hope your weekend is a good one and that you have lots to look forward to.