Friday, 30 October 2009


I have decided that my blog posts for the months of November will be my daily writing for the novel writing contest; that you can all witness my messes and first draft scribblings ... and perhaps my fall from grace as I fail to balance all the elements of life: teaching, painting, writing, house building, dogs, social obligations, and medical appointments. I expect November to become a strange juggling act in which writing is the least important activity, but the activity that could be the only sane and centering one.

I will start on Sunday morning. During the first week I have a class at Carleton, three hours of teaching, a trip to Montreal, an appointment to get my hair cut, and a wedding to attend. For those of you who live in the city, have jobs, and are not almost seventy, all this may seem inconsequential ... but for me this week looms as ridiculously full. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Update on Chaos

My life continues to be overloaded ... not unpleasantly ... but I do not deal well with overload.

I have decided to hang on to my old Toyota and have scheduled her next oil and tire change. Must deal with a couple of bodywork things before winter as well.

I have accompanied Yashiko on two excursions, the second one to the lake where we had coffee and banana bread and took Kenya for a walk around the lake. Beforehand we photographed tourists on the steam train and wandered through the cars. I found myself (with a Japanese camera) photographing an old Japanese tourist taking photos with her cell phone of Canadian tourists. I loved my time with Yashiko.

Tomorrow I start work (9 hours over three weeks) with Eberhart, a German student who is determined to learn English because he can no longer count on the language proficiency of his wife since they have recently separated. We will hike with the Wakefield hikers tomorrow. Kenya will be pleased. I hope Eberhart likes dogs.

Tomorrow evening I will have a couple of neighbours for dinner. Tom (Clare's widower) needs such breaks from his solitary existence. He goes daily to the cemetery.

Today I messed up the amphibious chair I am doing for the silent auction donation and so have been fixing the mistakes off and on all day. I also did a run to Reno Depot to buy an outdoor lamp for Peter to install. I hope that Thursday, Friday and the weekend are peaceful days because the following week is going to be hectic.

Sketchbooking on Tuesday, Eberhart on Wednesday, a trip to Montreal on Thursday, Julie and Pat's wedding (and so a hair appointment beforehand) on Saturday ... and, of course, Nanowrimo all of November!

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that Nanowrimo may fall off the rails ... or my sanity will.

Oh ... forgot to mention ... I have been asked to produce a custom chair for La Source/The Well on Somerset ... the Anglican day centre for women ... to accompany the two wonky women they have already purchased ... one that incorporates their name and logo ... I am really looking forward to working with them ... after Christmas!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Too Too Busy ... but Wired

Two days ago the straw that breaks backs fluttered into view and settled on our lake. Rowboat Flo's daughter's Honda CRV with a For Sale sign on it is parked at Flo's cottage. I need a 4WD vehicle. The make of choice is the Honda CRV. She is asking a reasonable price for a vehicle in very good shape. I liked test driving it, even though I had to dust off my hot rodding standard shift skills as I took it over rough roads with steep hills and sharp corners. Unfortunately my old Toyota is still running fine. It is now ugly and dusty and filled with dog hair and sand, and it has a few bumps and bruises caused by my ineptitude when I park, one skid on ice, and the suicidal tendencies of a local doe, but generally speaking it works well. However; my road demands far more of a vehicle in the bad seasons than this low slung Toyota sedan can muster. I still have not decided.

On Wednesday evening the language school called ... I have some teaching gigs ... the first happened yesterday. My task was to entertain Yoshika, an 84 year old Japanese woman who puts most of us to shame physically (she still skiis, hikes, and dives ... and is a tireless traveler). She proved to be a really interesting companion. She is an artist and calligrapher whose work hangs in Japan's national galleries as well as in European museums and galleries. We visited artists and potters and then settled in at Le Hibou for coffee where we enjoyed wonderful service, food and ambiance. Our coffee table which was an old door painted with flowers on the panels sat between two comfortable old couches. We hope to see one another once more this weekend when I bring her up to the lake for tea.

While we were gadding about in the rain we went to Art de la Paix where Kelly informed me that she has been asked to donate something for a silent auction in Chelsea. She wants to donate one of my chairs, but she wants to keep a constant supply in the shop. I promised to paint a little faster ... stupid promise, I know.

I am feeling overwhelmed by the car decisions, by Kelly's insistence on MORE and still MORE, by the money-gobbling habits of this house and the ever-presence of Peter (can't even use my upstairs bathroom while he is around because the scaffolding climbs the front wall of the house), by the new demands of River Echo (isn't that a lovely name?), and by my reckless decision to accept the Nanowrimo challenge of producing a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in the month of November ... the same month I begin my sketchbooking course. I awaken from nightmares about having accidents with cars I am test driving to musings about chair designs. Last night I was up at 2 drinking cocoa with French stick pieces dunked in it in the vain hope that I would be able to return to bed to sleep till morning.

Kenya accompanied me downstairs, accepted a bit of turkey as a middle-of-the-night snack, and then sleepily followed me back upstairs. She was sound asleep while I pecked away here at the keyboard, absolutely wired.

In spite of all my protestations about feeling overwhelmed by life, it is also exhiliarating to be meeting artists and travelers, to be attending storytelling performances by the best in the business (I did tell you about Ivan Coyote's performance on Monday evening, didn't I?) and to eat in a restaurant that combines the best of everything a restaurant should offer. I feel very alive ... if exhausted.

And it is gratifying to be in demand ... and appreciated. Imagine! Kelly has a whole store filled with beautiful things by real artists ... and she wants to showcase one of my pieces. But I have to be careful ... I don't have skill ... just a beginner's enthusiasm ... and that could be destroyed by being pressured to become an assembly line producer, especially now that I cannot work outdoors so cannot use alkyd primer as a base on the difficult chairs.

In the midst of all this turmoil,
my first great grand daughter arrived. She is Lindsay and Johnnie's first child, Deb's first grandchild, and the first great niece for Zoom, Mud Mama and Techwood (and that's just a fraction of the family this baby has joined) ~TA DA~ a big welcome to little Chelsea Katherine ~TA DA~ who was born two nights ago. There is a wonderful welcome on Zoom's blog ( for this tiny little soul (5 pounds 9 ounces) with the long legs and arms and red hair. I can only add my genuine delight and echo Zoom's feelings ... and vow, as she has, to get my own baby sweater pieces sewn together.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Madness ...

I think I may be mad ... November is looking like the busiest month of my life ... and I have just signed up for NaNoWriMo ( ... the crazy marathon writing spree in which one contracts to write 50,000 words in a month. I don't even have any idea what I will write ... I don't want to cheat and use something I've already worked on ... but this is completely insane ... I don't have a single idea about characters, plot, setting or plot!

I think I will likely write in a variety of places ... here at my regular computer ... on my laptop at different cafes like Le Hibou ... in my writing journal ... dunno where else.

I am pike-lake-oma if you are looking for a writing buddy ...

Today I had a pleasant lunch with a former student ... from way back in the seventies ... and then I bought a case of wine and picked up furniture Carlos and Tamarak have been collecting for me, and groceries. By the time I got home, unloaded the car, loaded the wheelbarrow and got everything put away I had had it for the day.

Tomorow I will make a cake and a special dinner for Zoom's birthday ... it will be fun to see Zoom, GC and James ... it has been a while since they have been here at the lake and they will have a chance to see the cedar board and batten as far as it has progressed.

Ivan E. Coyote

Wow!!! What a great storytelling performance! Two hours of personal narrative by Ivan Coyote, a storyteller, creative writing teacher, short story writer and novelist from the Yukon. She was funny, provocative, and honest ... and Tamarak, Carlos and I had a great evening. If you ever have the chance to watch her perform ... drop everything and go!

And now I must shovel some more gravel away from the house so that the wood can breathe and stop getting wet ... in the spot where "The Perfect Man" (you remember him perhaps from my writing blog ...) installed the stoop for the clothesline. He spent an inordinate amount of time filling in the gravel that is going to cause my house to rot if I don't move it now. Such is perfection.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Messy Scenes

1. This morning the lake looked like the witches' cauldron scene from Macbeth. Our little lake usually looks like a placid cup of tea reflecting faithfully the landscape cradling it. This morning, with the mist rising in clouds from its surface, the surface seemed to boil and bubble within the encircling gold.

2. Up here at the house, the scenes are even more chaotic. Peter has his saw set up outdoors on the stone path between the lumber-piled yard and the porch. The clothesline has been taken down and rests in a tangle near the woods that frame the yard. Scaffolding climbs the front face of the house where Peter is currently working, and bits of construction debris settle everywhere as he works and discards until evening clean-up.

3. Indoors things are not much better. I have tidied the bathroom and cleaned up the worst mess caused when Peter had to take out the window (spilling a quart or so of water on the floor). He turned it right side up, set it back in and re-foamed. Yes ... the original incompetents installed it upside down with no place for drainage. (And there are other windows where they did the same thing.) But until Peter has finished framing this one again, its bits are leaning up against walls. When he completes the work I will re-hang curtains and clean thoroughly. (And repeat the process in the bedroom where the other two upside down windows are.)

4. My bedroom which is usually very tidy has become a storage place for pieces I want to work on this winter: a high chair, another toddler's chair, a doll cradle, a child's table and chair set, some little shelves and tables ... the list goes on.

5. The rest of the chairs and other larger pieces are still in the screened-in porch which is another messy scene.

6. Then there is the dining room/kitchen area ... every horizontal surface is covered in paint tins, papers, and work in various stages of completion ... and will remain like that until I have finished all the works in progress, or until Wednesday when I will have guests for dinner.

7. I have tidied up the deck area and put things away. Still have to move the canoe ... a two person portage ... but the chairs, paddles, umbrella and kayak are now stored where they will live for the winter.

8. When I ran a couple of errands with Kenya this morning I discovered a really sad scene on the road. Blood stained dirt marks the spot where the newest puppy on the lake was struck by a car on Sunday. It was a gentle little soul that Kenya really liked. She spent a good deal of time at the spot this morning; she seemed to be making sense of it. Apparently the driver was so busy watching that he didn't hit the white terrier, he didn't notice the puppy that ran under his rear wheel.

9. The dogs' owner is a new neighbour who seems to lack good sense. In the less three weeks since he moved in, his place has become the eyesore of the lake. It wouldn't matter so much if he were up here in the woods, but he is smack dab in the middle of the tidy community. He burns couches, scatters furniture, boats and golf clubs all over the lawn, parks several vehicles helter skelter on the lawn and road, leaves his garbage pail lying in one spot, its lid in another for days and days, and lets his dogs run loose. Nothing ever gets put away. The dog who is still alive is very aggressive and does not stay on the property. Perhaps the death of the puppy will make the owner more careful about keeping him tied.

10. But it is his failure to get a permit to deal with his septic waste that is really bothering the neighbours. He has a handkerchief sized lot and a holding tank ... and seems to be allowing his grey water to just be pumped into the front yard ... 30 feet from each of three wells ... his own and those of his neighbours on either side. And there is another drainage pipe that leads out onto the road all ready to create a giant ice patch right at the bottom of a hill that is already difficult to manoeuvre in winter, and at a place where everyone has to stop ... by the mailboxes.

My messes should be cleaned up within a month; I hope my neighbour's will be too. After that, of course, winter snow will cover a multitude of sins and scenes.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Achey -- Fluey -- More another day

I have posted the Felena chair and table photos ... for Irish Girl especially ...

I had been wondering what to do with my old oak coffee table that I wanted to play with ... and now that I see what happens when you paint on raw oak, I have decided to do mine in a similar way.

I have done lizards on a child's chair ... and whenever I see a gecko when I am traveling I think of the sense of safety I felt in Malawi where we had a resident gecko which kept ugly things from falling on us as we slept. So I might do a lizard ...

Does anyone have other ideas for the single image?

knob and trim detail

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the purple chair at Felena's

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the table top at Felena's

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Thursday, 15 October 2009

Middle of October

October 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Zoom! I hope you have a wonderful day, week, year, and the rest of your life!

Yesterday was a jam-packed day ... too full for someone who is getting creaky!

Peter started working on the house, setting up scaffolding and replacing the Typar.

The Sears man arrived, unlocked the washer, and told me that this model is a dud ... needing far too many repairs to the electronic systems. He told me a trick not mentioned in the manual for unlocking it myself.

I went out with Tamarack in the afternoon. We saw John Benn's show at the Snapdragon Gallery in the Glebe ... wonderful ... love what he does with sunshine in the woods.

Then we stopped at The Papery and made some fun purchases.

Afterwards, we were frozen so we went to Felina's for hot spicy black bean soup. The soup was great but even more impressive were the table and chairs in the corner that had just been freshly painted in wonderful jewel colours and decorated with chameleon-like lizards. I took photos and talked to the creators. Mmmmn! A Yummy stop.

The next part is a rant ... I hope you won't stop reading, though!

Sears Canada phoned and we had a circular conversation in which I said that Sears should stand behind the products it sells especially those they sell under the Kenmore brand name, and perhaps they would consider replacing this machine with a a lower cost, simpler top loader; and she said (over and over again) that Sears policy is to repair machines covered by extended warantees; and that the manufacturer had not issued a recall on this machine so Sears policy was that it could not be replaced. Finally I said we were going in circles and getting nowhere. I said that Sears policy was not a good one and that I and my family and friends were all bloggers, and that the electronic word of mouth discussion of everything that had gone wrong with these very expensive machines in such a short time would not be good publicity for either Sears or the Kenmore line.

She said she could offer me an extended warranty ... two years of worry-free service and one inspection each year. I said I would take it ... not because I think it was fair but rather because I think I am dealing with a large corporation which doesn't give a damn about the kind of junk they are selling or about the customers they inconvenience.

We have moved away from an honest market in which the consumer could expect decent quality appliances that would last for many years, one in which the companies that sold those appliances would stand behind their products. The new reality is that appliances are just one more example of shoddy workmanship in a throw- away world. we live in a market in which insurance has to be purchased because the products are junk.

My pocket is feeling the strain of this reality, but so is our environment.

We purchase expensive green machines that conserve energy and water, but they cost the planet huge amounts of both to produce, and then, because the workmanship and materials are so shoddy, they end up in landfill far sooner than the less expensive machines they have replaced.

The Sears repairman advised me not to purchase anything but the simplest non-electronic machines from now on. His own washing machine is the simplest model available ... and it washes clothes faithfully. He likely paid $400 for his washer which is the same age as mine. I paid over $1000 with taxes. He has not had any problems. I have had almost $400 worth of problems with this one machine.

I definitely would not buy a front loading machine with electronic components again.

Would I buy from Sears again? I don't think so. The people who are on the front line ... the sales people ... the delivery personnel ... the technicians who do the repairs ... are all fine people trying to do their jobs as well as they can. I have not had a problem with any of them ... but the faceless corporation that makes the policies and never sees a customer or experiences the frustration ... the people making the really big bucks and the bad decisions ... are impossible to deal with.

The problem is that it is becoming harder and harder to find local retailers selling Canadian made products they can stand behind, but that is what I will be looking for the next time I buy anything as important as a washing machine.

Sorry for the rant ... but I think I finally understand in my deepest self now why it is so important not to buy from the places that don't care a whit about sustainability ... of the planet ... or of local industries. Before Sears bought up Robert Simpson's, we could depend on that retailer. Simpson's hired people ... lots of them ... who tried to give good service. Simpson's sold products that were most often manufactured here in Canada by people who cared about quality. Canadians had jobs and quality products. We need to begin supporting Canadian industry and retailers or we will lose what little we have left.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

the funky chicken bread box

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Always a good idea to hang out near babies in chairs ...

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Giving Thanks

Playing Catch-up again ...

A busy time again ... TheOr and Ralph came out and worked for several hours moving the cedar down the hill on Thursday, and then the weekend was jam packed with friends staying and sharing meals. It culminated in a turkey dinner on Monday. We delivered dinner to Barry who is recuperating from knee replacement surgery and then feasted ourselves ... Sean, Ying and Chen Chen were lovely dinner guests. Cheng Cheng has the most infectious laugh and irrepressible sense of humour imaginable. And he thinks I am a riot, especially when I imitate Kenya. He's twelve.

During the weekend two untoward occurences: the washer broke down again on Saturday; and the power went out during Sunday night.

I had a wonderful time when the power went out ... discovered an odd little internet cafe in the village where I can have a coffee or tea, read the Globe and Mail and play with my laptop whenever I so choose.

Perhaps both problems will turn out to be providential. After all, how many times will the washer konk out before they realize it is a defective machine and replace it?

Yesterday, I was kept prisoner by an unkept Sears appointment. It meant that Sarah and I were unable to go for a walk with Lucas and the dogs, but it also allowed me the time to play with an idea I got from something Sean said after dinner. When the piece is completed I will post a photo and tell you about it ... but likely not till next week because it will have to be a secret till then.

The scaffolding arrived this morning and the actual work will begin tomorrow. It will be a messy bothersome time, but I think it will be worth it to finally see this house looking as if it is complete. Houses never are, of course; there is always something that needs doing ... but this is the last of the huge expensive tasks. And the last one that needs doing without any more delay. There are closets to complete and repairs to be made because of the water damage that occurred when the roof failed ... but these feel manageable. And projects like the garden will be fun to work on.

I hope your Thanksgiving was as pleasant as mine. This year it was easy to feel thankful that I live on a beautiful lake, that I have funky furniture to play with, and that so many good people (and dogs) make up my circle of family and friends.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts ...

For you young folks, that comes from a long ago detective show called "Dragnet". Since this post will contain no metaphors or philosophical wanderings, the title seemed appropriate ...

October is going to be a very busy month for me.

1. My gravel and rock for the garden will start arriving and being spread today. That means that my laneway will be clear of the pile that already sits there, and that I will be able to start gardening in earnest next spring ... and that all the toxic stuff and glass shards will finally be covered once and for all.

2. My daughter's radiation appointments begin this week ... and I want to help out as much as possible.

3. Then there is Thanksgiving weekend and then ... the work on installing the cedar board and batten starts. The cedar is here already as well as the strapping, and I have to set up an account for the bits and pieces as well as the rental of the scaffolding. That job will take about 2 weeks.

4. One daughter will be celebrating her 51st birthday on the 15th. This birthday is special for our whole family, and while she may not be up to a big celebration this year, I want to do something special for her.

5. I am starting work on a sign for the shop today ... Kelly paid for a huge sign to be done and it appears the guy has taken off with the money with no intention of producing the sign. I offered to make a smaller sign in the meantime.

6. This is also the last month that it will be warm enough to work outside preparing furniture for painting so I intend to take advantage of any warm days to clean, sand, and prime with an alkyd primer.

7. It is also likely the last month in which to find odds and ends at garage sales and the like.

8. At the end of the month, two old dogs will arrive for four or five days ... and then we are into November which a month filled with weddings, births, and birthdays to celebrate.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

N Degrees of Separation

My life has been filled to brimming lately, and many of the experiences have come full circle and pulled bits of my past into the present, and allowed the present to chase the tail of the future.

When I took the bus trip to St. Sauveur, I mentioned to Rowboat Flo that the last time I had traveled along the north side of the river, I had been on a train trip with my North American Literature class. A few days later I received an email from a neighbour to whom I had forwarded a request about re- homing dogs telling me that one of the people who worked in her building had received the same email from another source, and, when they discussed it, he thought he knew me. Sean was one of my former students, one who had taken that train trip with me 31 years ago. He, his sister and I have been in touch via email ever since.

Then yesterday, at the Saturday Market in the village, I tried to buy fresh farm eggs at one of the booths and the farmer told me he knew me; that I had been his grade 8 English teacher in 1978 (also 31 years ago). It was Walter Last.

But it hasn't just been former students re-surfacing in my life after over 30 years.

Last week I learned of a sketchbooking course from a comment on Zoom's blog ( I checked it out and began the sign-up procedure for it. The following day a notice appeared in the Wakefield Newsletter asking for people who kept sketchbooks to share theirs with Michelle, the instructor. Yesterday I met her for coffee, decided definitely to take the course, and learned that another person whose sketchbook will be used is also connected with my daughter's blog.

After that meeting I went to a garage sale. It turned out to be at a house Mud Mama had rented at Christmas a couple of years ago. There I met Taz ... T-A-Z-Taz, as he informed me. He was about six or seven and he was selling toys. I loved the little pine chairs I saw first and asked him how much they were. He told me to make an offer ... maybe a dollar. I said okay, and was the table for sale too? Yes. I dug in my purse and pulled out all the money I had: $8.50, and said that was what I could give him for everything. We agreed and I told him that I really liked the set, that I liked it so much I was giving him all my money. He looked dismayed and tried to give some back. As I was leaving I told his mother what a lovely little boy he was, and she told me he wasn't for sale. I have posted a bad photo of the set ... but when I got it home I realized it was hand made and solid pine as well as having a lovely shape. Thank you T-A-Z-Taz. I will do my best to live up to this project ... and to you.

Then there was the chair artist, Alice Hinther, whose work I saw at WEST. I emailed her to tell her that the little centre where Le Hibou will be located had opened (she had asked me about it when I visited her home during WEST). Turns out that Zoom had visited shortly after I had and left her our blog addresses so that she could check out my chairs, and Alice had misplaced the addresses. When I told Zoom I had been in touch with Alice, she already knew because GC had been also been corresponding with Alice. If you are reading this, Alice, the centre is open, but Le Hibou is not yet.

In other news I just received my second cheque ... and was very pleasantly surprised! And I have started work on the bread box I got from Fraulein ... also a blog reader ... who delivered it to me via the step-mom of Mud Mama's kids ... It will feature a fat hen sitting on a nest containing one egg ... a hen I sketched a few days before I met up with Walter at the market.

I think the world just became a whole lot smaller.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I will be painting.

The hand made table and chairs I bought from Taz

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a door at La Foret in Wakefield

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