Sunday, 30 August 2009

Good Dog, Kenya ... and catch-up news

On Friday afternoon I decided to have a snooze after an early supper (It was Wakefest weekend and I intended to go out later.) I awoke to the strangest half howls and pleading noises I have ever heard Kenya emit. I called down something soothing and we had a very strange five minute conversation consisting of desperate "Please, oh please, NOW"s, and sleepy "Just wait. It's All right. I'll be there in a minute," responses from me.

When I went downstairs, there she was, sitting in front of the stove looking up at the left over fish cakes in the iron frying pan.

She wanted them very badly but she wouldn't take any without permission. Anyone who owns a dog will realize just how heartfelt my "Good dog, Kenya" was.

Of course I prepared her dinner and broke one of the fishcakes onto it for her.


I didn't go to Wakefest that evening, but on Saturday I attended an author reading and writing workshop with a name forgotten author whose workshop was totally unprepared and disjointed, and an excellent one given by Brian Doyle who was well organized, intelligent, respectful of his audience, empathetic and kindly.

I cannot say enough good things about his part of the afternoon. He worked on how to apprentice yourself to the writers you admire and used two exercises based on the styles of Dickens and Steinbeck.

I suppose in all fairness I should add that Brian is a former teacher, whereas the woman who was too arrogant to prepare, was a lawyer in her last life.


On my way home I dropped into the shop to deliver the history of the second Wonky Woman, "Reaching for the Moon", and discovered Kelly shivering in the damp cold. I suggested she put on a pair of the socks I was selling, and she told me the only adult pair had sold. My second suggestion came in the form of a question, "Why don't you close the door?" She looked startled and then laughed. I closed the door on my way out with a bunch of WONDERFUL organic arugula in my hands, went home to Kenya and my own cold house, made a cozy fire and started work on the second sock of the second pair of adult socks.


Today I intend to stay here in my cozy house looking out at the greyness of the lake while I work on the doll's cradle and the already sold brightly coloured chair. I hope the rest of your weekend will be as happy as I expect mine to be.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

I'm Back ...

Long Hiatus ... busier than usual ...

I have been busy being sociable, looking after two extra dogs, writing a letter to Sears, doing laundry at Tamarak's, attempting to volunteer at Wakefest, making arrangements to help Claire and Tom by staying with Claire while Tom gets out occasionally, and painting ... and knitting.

Painting News: I have sold another chair ... actually the same chair twice. The shop owner allowed a customer to buy the chair intended for her own daughter so that I would be guaranteed two child's rocker sales. She has given me free rein but would like the same colours as the very first chair ... bright primary colours plus green. I bought a baby-safe bright red and lovely spring leaf green yesterday and primed that little rocker and the doll's cradle that Tamarak and Carlos unearthed the other day. I have almost finished painting the second Wonky Woman chair. I'll post photos before I take her to the shop.

Knitting News: a beautiful self patterning sock in black, greens and reds the colour is called Congo) in my favourite fine sock yarn, Heart and Sole with aloe, is almost half finished. I am using #2 American needles and it seems to be going a little faster but I have still spent 10 hours so far. I am measuring my time by the movies I watch. These five have been The Constant Gardener, Mostly Martha, First Do No Harm, Finding Forrester, and Nowhere in Africa. I think perhaps I knit faster while entertained ... sort of like exercising to music, but it still takes a very long time to knit a pair of women's socks in a fine wool, even when the colours make you happy and you use a slightly larger needle. If I make $1 per hour on kids' socks, I figure I make about 50 cents on women's. And that, of course, works on the assumption that someone will actually buy a pair! If no one does, then each pair of socks is costing me money to knit!

I will be looking after Claire this Friday morning and next Thursday afternoon plus every Wednesday morning as long as she is able to stay at home. I have told Tom that I will be available whenever he needs me. I am very glad I will have this time with her.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

My dog is a tattle tale ...

Kenya and Olive were outside playing and then Kenya began that high pitched insistent barking that means "I need in NOW". When I got to the door, Kenya threw herself at Olive giving her that bossy "Don't do that" snarly bark and then immediately left Olive alone and raced back to a freshly dug hole in the dirt and gravel and looked from me to Olive and back again. And just in case I didn't get the message, she pawed at the hole a couple of times and ran back to Olive giving her hell again.

She is a very smart dog, my Kenya, and I am glad she is using her words better than she used to.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

The second cat chair almost ready to polyurethane

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Polyurethaning started and mattress and pillow made to put in ...

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The Giraffe End

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The hippo family end of the doll crib

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I keep checking to see if someone has pasted a kick me sign on my back

Yesterday after my post I received another unpayable tax bill ... a new one from the federal tax people ... this follows a whole raft of similarly unpayable ones from both Quebec and the federal tax departments. All are the result of the cost of building this house and all of these missives have been the direct result of cashing in RRSPs to do so. If I had it to do over again, I would never again put my savings into RRSPs ... Too late wise of course ... I have no money to put into savings anywhere.

Then this morning the Sears technician phoned to tell me that the part he broke won't be in till Monday but the next available service call to repair the machine is scheduled for Friday, August 28th.

DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT buy appliances from Sears. They break way before they should and their repair service is obviously under-manned. They used to be a reliable source of appliances, but not any more if my experience is typical, and I suspect it is since the technician told me that another customer he talked to this morning has been waiting 8 days for a service call.

i am almost afraid to go out and check the mail this afternoon.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A Woe is Me Wednesday Lament

Well, the Sears technician showed up today and gave me the bad news. One of the washing machine's computers exploded. Likely causes: a lightning hit or a power drop (opposite of surge) or the extremely high humidity. Cost to repair: about $400. Last year the one year old dryer cost $358 to repair. Is this normal? These machines are two years old and are being driven by a little old lady!

I bought the more expensive energy efficient models this time and thought they would be better quality. Together with the shipping fee for Wakefield I paid over $1800 for the two appliances. Should I automatically purchase the extended warranties on every appliance I buy? I've never bought those warranties in the past, and washers and dryers lasted forever.

It would likely have been cheaper than paying an extra $758 in the first two years!

What do you do?

Oh ... did I mention? The technician broke another part when he was installing the computer ... and that part won't be available till next week so I will be without a machine till then.

To end this on a more positive note:

The dehumidifier worked like a charm and cost under $200.

Maureen and Jeff came up on Tuesday morning and left this afternoon. It was good to have their company, and Kenya was delighted with the extra attention. Jeff was somewhat less delighted with her attentiveness to him. She always made sure that she shook all over him and his book.

AND ... Late this afternoon I went out with the sodden load of towels and bathmats that had been trapped in the washer for two days. I was hanging them on the sagging line when a hummingbird alighted on the line to watch me.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

What are you afraid of?

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about what makes me tick.

Yesterday the humidity was so high that the floors downstairs were absolutely wet with sweat ... as was the refrigerator. No amount of wiping dry lasted more than a minute or so. I dug out the fan and when I went to bed, I turned it and the one in the downstairs bathroom on to try to dry things up overnight.

This morning things were a little drier but not much. I will have to get a dehumidifier today before my company arrives. Otherwise they will be slipping and falling on the slick slate floors.

This morning I was washing the towels I had used to wipe up the water and my washer stopped dead saying there was a problem with the electrical system. There was a brief hydro outage but it could have been the heavy load that caused the brain fart. Damn! Another service call.

I don't sleep well when I am alone, but I don't fear the things most people, especially women living alone in an isolated place, would fear. I don't worry about intruders of either the two- or four-legged kind, for example. I seldom think about getting sick or having accidents while I am here alone. What I fear is that this house will fail in some way.

That fear is not unfounded ... the roof failed, for instance ... and I had the flood in the spring. So I think what happens to me is that whenever things are not quite right I begin to fear that the big bad wolf will blow my house down.

What sorts of things do you fear?

Monday, 17 August 2009

These Lazy Hazy Days ...

Whew! What a weekend. Kenya and I spent almost all of it in and on the water. She just keeps on swimming and swimming even when I stop and pull the kayak up on shore or climb the ladder and dry off.

Last night she had a special treat. Erin and Aidan dropped in and so she had a BOY ... and not only a boy but a boy who is really a FISH and not only a boy who is really a fish but a BOY who is really a FISH who speaks DOG to play with.

Earlier in the day my nice neighbours who have two husky friends for Kenya to visit returned to the city leaving their cottage occupied by friends. I was painting a base coat of primer on a piece of furniture when I heard a woman's voice: "There's a big black bear under the deck. Oh, it's a dog. It's wagging its tail."

I went outside, paint brush in hand and called over, "Her name's Kenya. Just tell her to go home." They did and she did.

Even the raucous neighbours on the other side finally chilled out and calmed down after two solid days of partying. Yesterday they floated quietly around on air mattresses instead of shouting and drinking, shattering the tranquillity, and transforming the lake into a bar scene.

I am finally enjoying playing with the second cat chair ... that is because the dreary work is finished and I am applying decorative touches. The little crib has been fun to work with because all the surfaces are flat. When Tamarak and Carlos were here on Saturday I mentioned that it had been much easier to paint the small canvas for my business card than to paint the furniture, and Tamarak said (laconically), "Well, yeah. It's a flat surface." She refrained from saying, "DUH." Thank you Tammy!

I just read about a movie that sounds as if I would like it: Julia and Julie ... about Julia Child and a blogger called Julie. I have decided that I will go to town on the next day that is not wonderfully warm, or the first day I tire of the lake, and I will watch movies all afternoon. First Julia and Julie ... then The Time Traveler's Wife ... a whole afternoon of chick flicks. I haven't done that for a long time.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Foghorn on Halifax Common

I have posted a new-old piece on my site, A Writer Blogs, called Foghorn on Halifax Common.

A friend shared some youthful memories of Montreal and I looked back over my memories to share this with him ... and now with you.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

A Quiet Blog

Most blogs seem quieter in the summer. My excuse is that my computer is in the only part of my house that is hot during the day. I could switch over to the laptop but it requires a good bit of organization and I don't feel up to it these lazy hazy days. And, of course, I'd rather be painting or playing in the water with my dog and my kayak.

This morning I got up bright and early and headed off while it was still cool to catch the last days of the business card sale. I would pick up fresh veggies at my favourite fresh produce store and then come home to relax at the lake. I got about two kilometres when I realized I really didn't want to waste a single day of this late summer, and I could always get produce a little more expensively in Wakefield, and the business card saving, while substantial, was not worth driving to town in sweltering heat. So ... I turned around and came home. Kenya was confused. I felt relieved and much freer than I had an hour earlier.

Later I will drive into Wakefield for the produce and stop at the library to use their computer to attempt to create the order on-line ... an impossibility on my dial-up system.

And ... the other reason for my failure to blog regularly is that I have been preoccupied with living life rather than blogging about it. One of these days I will likely blog about that too, but not just yet.

So, what will I do with the time and energy I have saved by staying home today?

I will complete the picky painting on the second cat chair. I am getting strong hints from the shop to get it finished.

I will start the decorative painting on the little periwinkle doll's crib. I have decided to use an image from Swaziland ... whimsical and sweet for a child's toy. It is a whole bunch of Africam animals snuggled into bed with a night sky behind them. I will likely complete the project with other African-inspired designs ... but in colours that will complement the periwinkle. Then I will put a little cotton mattress and pillow in to complete the effect. And maybe include a sleeping baby animal. I am having fun with this one.

Tomorrow I will continue that work and perhaps even get the polyurethaning started on the cat chair.

Tamarak and Carlos are coming to visit today and I am looking forward to that. The lake is now Carlos temperature so maybe he will join the women and dogs this time instead of staying on the deck shivering in sympathy.

I hope you all enjoy your first real summer weekend.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Moving Right Along

This post will be just a little of this and a little of that ...

The sweater for the great grand babe whose name keeps changing:
I was all set to block the pieces when I looked at the sleeves and decided I wanted to re-knit them ... so the blocking will happen tonight or tomorrow ... and then I can put it together and take a photo to post here. I used baby Bamboo which is a silky soft yarn that is fun to knit with.

Her blanket is 25 rows from the end. Thank goodness. It was all garter stitch and I had to start each row afresh and then braid in the loose strands to create the edges. It seemed to go on forever. It is good to see the end in sight!

Funky Furniture etc: I spent yesterday working on the administrative stuff ... putting together the blurbs bilingues with business cards. I will take them in to the shop with the apple bowl and the box which I polyurethaned as soon as the varnish sets. It is so darned damp here today I may have to light a fire to get the drying done.

I also started the cat drawings on the second Happy Cat chair. I find it impossible to enjoy doing pieces that are too similar. I loved doing the first cat chair and am finding this one a drag. I remember asking a wonderful sculptor down in the Eastern Townships if she could make me a goddess later when I could afford one. Her response now makes complete sense: she could never produce two the same; she worked through inspiration. So she gave me a special price. That goddess is still living with me and I love her as much as I did the day I brought her home.

Today I must take care of making proper business cards through Staples on-line.

And I have to get photos ready for printing so that I can have a portfolio at the shop.

Just Life:
Yesterday was a great day for swimming and Kenya and I took our breaks in the lake. We met a couple swimming around the lake ... not once but three times. I felt like a bit of a piker just swimming around purposelessly with my dog.

I have a lunch date tomorrow with someone who plays with language and makes jokes in Franglais. I will visit Zoom before going to Les Fougeres.

Friends from Montreal are coming to visit early next week and will stay a few days.

I have to fit in all my social activities before the 21st because I will be dogsitting for a few days ... Chelsea and Olive again ... and I have agreed to help out at Wakefest the following weekend, and then the one after that I will be looking after a new dog. And then it is already September!

I want to try to visit Mud Mama in September and Lindsay's baby shower is September 27. I may have to leave the Nova Scotia trip till October.

It is hard to be a hermit when I am so busy socially! It's also hard to keep stopping and starting the work on the chairs especially. The small pieces are easier that way.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Selling in Quebec is Hard Work!

I am discovering the downside to selling my wares in Quebec. Because each piece is accompanied by a short blurb on its history (and I have been told this makes it more interesting to customers) I now need to make sure sure that these little histories are translated into French. Fortunately I have a truly bilingual ... and generous ... friend who translates for a living. Thank you, Julie!

I am not sure how ... or whether ... to approach the woman running this shop with my real concerns. I don't want to appear critical, but there are several things she is doing or not doing that I think must affect sales.

The signage is all wrong and cluttered. I feel as if I am walking through a forest of signs to get to her place ... signs for antiques dominate,but there are several signs for spiritual arts and for life without plastics (on a plastic sign!). If I were looking for art or the work of local artisans I wouldn't even bother to go in.

And it isn't open all the time which is a really bad thing for any shop. If you can't count on it being open people simply stop going there.

Once inside the place appears cluttered, and the rooms off the main room are dark and musty. Pottery and paintings are invisible in the dark, and the smell of rotting wood is not inviting.

And then there is her little girl, 14 months and very cute ... but always carrying food in her hands and touching things.

There's more, but you get the idea.

What to do? Maybe suggest that she ask all the people who have things in her shop for input? Put out a questionnaire?

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Grey Sunday

I began my day by working on the small items ... polyurethaning ... and then decided to take a break and go to the Rupert auction. Everything was being sold in mystery boxes. You got a long distance peek at one or two items in each box. I wanted the flour sifter in one box so I got a lot of odd stuff I didn't want as well for $2. At least the price was right. Then for another $2 I got two boxes of lighting parts ... shades and bases and fixtures. Again ... a great price ... and I think I can definitely use several of them in places like the utility and laundry rooms and in a closet in my den.

If anyone wants to sift through my cast-offs you are welcome to take whatever I can't use ... for an even better price than I paid. Free to the first people who show up!

I find this kind of day depressing and I can't even work up an interest in painting. I am still at the spindle stage of the two chairs and feel a bit as if I am working on an assembly line. I think I will finish one chair completely and then move on to the second one.

Kenya had a great day yesterday. She went over to help my neighbour who was, with friends, moving over 3000 pounds of broken concrete under his deck. He's been having work done on his two cottages and they left a helluva mess. I know the feeling of looking at over a ton of stuff to move ... I felt overwhelmed when they dropped off 2100 pounds of eco wood last year up by my car! This year the owner's son has agreed to bring my wood in winter and move it down the hill by sled as he did two winters ago. He isn't bound by labour regulation laid down by the Workman's Compensation Board because it is a family business. I was delighted when he offered.

But back to Kenya. She chased sticks all morning with the guys and then went swimming with them afterwards. They told me she was a great diversion. And she was delighted to have three playmates.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Rocking Chairs, Sensitive Men and Hospital Horror Stories

Sorry I haven't been blogging. Life has been catching up with me ... Mud Mama's visit, a doctor's appointment and now I am starting to paint again. I am working on four things right now ... a wooden bowl, a small hinged-top box, and two partly finished chairs.

Claire and Tom just gave me another beautiful rocking chair to play with. Tom had repaired it and prepared it as far as putting on the first coat of white acrylic enamel. It has lovely spindles and a very classic design. I think this one will be a keeper rather than a seller. But that will allow me to paint my least favourite rocker and put it up for sale. I think rocking chairs are very special.

And the other big news is that I just had a date with my first new age sensitive man ... and found the experience terrifying. I am used to strong silent types ... men who use language to get things done or to discuss ideas, not for telling me how they feel about me. My first instinct was to run the proverbial mile in the opposite direction. Second thoughts are becoming a little less drastic.

You all know my feelings about the Hull and Gatineau Hospitals ... well yesterday I heard a horror story about CHEO. My own GP took her daughter in there repeatedly for what she knew were attacks of appendicitis, and was told over and over again that it was nothing. They wanted to give her some therapy for pain control (starting early to tell her that her pain was all in her head). Meanwhile the kid lost 8 pounds off a small athletic frame and missed 40 days of school. Finally my doctor's colleague got in touch with a friend at St. Justine's in Montreal who told her to bring the little girl in immediately. She did and they diagnosed it as appendicitis and removed the damned thing. My doctor says she has lost all faith in CHEO. That's an even worse position to be in than mine. CHEO is the only children's hospital in the area.

Monday, 3 August 2009

It is very easy to re-live my mothering days with Wild Thing ... as though Mud Mama were five again ...

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Wild Thing Turns Five ... with Mud Mama

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Mixed Blessings

August 3, 2009
When the house empties ...

It happens every time. I feel as if I am drowning in noise while they are here and when they climb into the van, they leave behind a vaccuum that I fill with tears.

Mud Mama is the only one of my children who still has young kids. And she has a passel of ‘em ... six all told ranging for almost two to just turned eighteen.

Usually life here proceeds by inches measured in silence.

When Mud Mama visits, the hermitage vibrates with shrieks from the pre-verbal Sprout who know exactly what he wants to say but can't form the words, gleeful noise from happy kids, and wails from one or the other when a hurt, either physical or emotional occurs. Then there are all the adult sounds that are also so foreign here. This time we had a birthday party on their last day, so Zoom and GC, Erin, Emma and Aidan, and the Arch Angel joined Mud Mama, Maurice, Sprout, Nature Girl, Wild Thing and Dark Mirror.

I feel as if my life went on hold for the week. I don't have a studio to escape to; my living space is also my working space ... and it was impossible with a toddler around to have paints and projects in various stages out where he could hurt himself or them.

Today I cleaned and did laundry after my little weep, and then I went to pick up some chairs Nature Girl and I purchased at a garage sale coming home from our three hour jaunt to Cumberland to get fresh corn for the party. I still have a line filled with laundry to bring in. By tomorrow I will be ready to start working on the two chairs I have started ... another wonky woman and another happy cat. In between times I think I will work away at the smaller projects I've been picking up ... boxes ... a bread box ... a shelf ... a mirror ... children's chairs ... a little pine bedside stand ... a wooden bowl ... more carousels.

My life is really too quiet. I need to see my kids and all my grandchildren, including these young ones more often. But it doesn't work to try to fit several months of absence into one short week. The stresses and strains of living together in a house set up for one old hermit and her dog, are not conducive to good visits. I think we are going to have to figure out a better way.

I am thinking of driving to Nova Scotia in September. I wish I could afford to fly people up for a few days so that we could have small sane visits. But I can't, so we will have to figure out something that will work.

Life will get back to normal by tomorrow ... my kind of normal, at least. I wish my life could have some kind of sane balance. I don't think it has had that since I left an eighteen year relationship in 1995.