Friday, 31 December 2010

Oma Impersonating Rudolph

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Auntie Mandara, Lily and Kenya

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Christmas Dinner

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Christmas movie guy

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But i love you ...

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Techwood and Scootz Christmas Eve

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Some Thoughts on Solitude and Art

I have been busy and sociable lately ... and now I find myself missing time to myself ...  and wishing I were being more quietly creative ...

Today I came across two quotes that articulated my own amorphous yearning to return to a more hermitic life.

From a book called Solitude

What goes on in the human being when he is by himself is as important as what happens in his interactions with other people.   

… Two opposing drives operate throughout life: the drive for companionship, love, and everything else which brings us close to our fellow men; and the drive toward being independent, separate, and autonomous. 

…   The creative person is constantly seeking to discover himself, to remodel his own identity, and to find meaning in the universe through what he creates. He finds this a valuable integrating process which, like meditation or prayer, has little to do with other people, but which has its own separate validity. His most significant moments are those in which he attains some new insight, or makes some new discovery; and these moments are chiefly, if not invariably, those in which he is alone.

On Art in the rapidly changing electronic world ... from Robert Genn

Art fills a vital human need for life enhancement. Art reboots the cerebral cortex, teaches new skills to underutilized hands, arouses dormant sensitivities and promotes latent passions. If need be, art gives us something to talk about besides the kids, grandkids and celebrities, hence making us more interesting people. And it's cheap--a month of art supplies for the average Daumier is about the same as a round of golf.

For many of us it's meant a greater need for and appreciation of sanctuary. We catch ourselves daily in our work-spaces--whether tiny rooms or lofty studios--often contented, always challenged. These retreats are not soon to be closed. The studio is a place of dreams, and dreams, though always vulnerable, are good for us.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

80 Before 80

I succumbed to the temptation and started a new list ... 80 Things to Do Before I Turn 80 ... I have written down 48 so far (6 years worth if I am counting that way ... which I am not.)  It is akin to a bucket list, I guess, but I don't want to do crazy over-the-top things like sky diving or climbing Everest.  Maybe I will be so tired of the trite that I will start throwing in things like that, though.

So far, though, I have included things that are on-going like nurturing existing friendships with people I love, taking regular artist's dates away from the lake, and getting back to cross country skiing regularly.  I have also mentioned a few once-in-a-life-time things, but really not many.  They seem to be falling into categories that have always sustained me rather than exciting things I haven't yet done.

And there are almost no want-to-buy things at all ... just the occasional one that needs to be bought or done anyway... like replacing my ugly, rusting, energy gobbling fridge.  Things that I will do one of these days  ... not splurges. 

I don't know whether this means I am utterly lacking in imagination or simply contented.

Anyway ... I have run out of steam and ideas ... can you help?

What would you put on your bucket list ... forgetting completely whether or not it is possible?

Have fun with this!

Today I am going snowshoeing with a couple of friends and then having them for dinner later.  Duck tonight. This is a test of endurance for me (not the duck - the snowshoeing ) because I have lost so much  stamina since my fall.  If you don't use it, you lose it ... and I can't afford to be a weakling living up here.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Photos to Come

I tried to post a photo that Techwood took on Christmas Eve but he was using an application that must be patented or copywrite or something.  Blogspot refused to accept it.  Too bad.  It was cute.  My photo was on a billboard outside a bustling cafe in Paris.  He used his new phone ... one of those phones that can do everything ... tell time, give directions, act as a compass, take photos, everything but cook dinner and do dishes.  I was reminded of Maxwell Smart's shoe phone ... but a 21st century version.

My own photos are all locked in my camera because I left my camera case with all my cords etc. at Tamarack's.  I will get it tomorrow when her family comes here for dinner. Then I will share photos of live lobsters and livelier Lily.

Thursday a friend is coming up to the lake for snowshoeing and dinner.

And then, by heaven, it is New Year's Eve.

I haven't managed to stay awake till midnight on New Year's Eve in years, and so I haven't made any plans yet.  I don't make resolutions.  What I do do is think about the past year and write something reflective and forward looking and put it in the toe of my Christmas stocking so that I will have a record of what has been important in the past year and what my aspirations were for the following one.  It is instructive to reread these scraps of life each December.

I came across something I wrote about 1 1/2 years ago entitled "70 Things to do in my 70th Year".  I had got as far as writing down  #18 ... and had accomplished 4 and started 2 others ...

Of course I also did things I hadn't anticipated doing ... but that's why I don't make resolutions on New Year's Eve.

How do you celebrate New Year's?  I bet Barbara and John get in movies and snacks and stay in their pjs all day.   Sounds pretty good to me.  I think I may try it this year.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Post Christmas Blog

Well ... Christmas is really not over of course ... won't be for a while ... but today I have a breathing space to prepare for the next phase ... Deb's visit.

Yesterday I came home from the main event and immediately headed off again stopping for tea at a friend's and then on to a wonderful ham dinner at Tamarack's where Baby Lily was the main attraction.  Lots of adoring grans, great-grans and aunties and three interested dogs surrounded her and responded to her commands.

I had a wonderful Christmas with Techwood and Scootz ...  even Kenya celebrated by watching her very favourite movie on a HUGE screen.  She was almost as entertaining as the movie as she interacted with Marley giving him hell every time he was naughty ... and he was naughty very often.

We cooked, ate and drank a great deal.

Christmas dinner was the final triumph ... a surf and turf feast ...

Techwood  prepared fresh lobsters, four elegant dipping sauces and a rich scallop dish.  I did the simpler things like the red cabbage, brussel sprouts with caraway and maple syrup, mashed potatoes and fillet mignons..  Scootz was kept busy clearing the decks for each next meal.

I am going to give you  my recipe for the Christmas breakfast cassserole that I prepared on Christmas Eve and just baked on Christmas morning.  It was the easiest dish and a hit.


    * 4 plain croissants
    * 1 tablespoon butter
    * 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
    * 1/4 cup sliced green onion or other onion
    * 4 eggs
    * 1 cup milk
    * 1 cup shredded swiss cheese
    * 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    * 1/4 cup parmesan cheese


Prep Time: 10 mins

Total Time: 45 mins

   1. 1 Split croissants in half and place bottoms cut side up in one layer in a rectangular casserole.
   2. 2 Melt butter in a fry pan.
   3. 3 Saute mushrooms and green onion until tender and liquid has evaporated.
   4. 4 Set aside.
   5. 5 Beat together eggs and milk.
   6. 6 Pour half over croissants, layer mushroom mixture and cheeses on top, then pour over remaining liquid.
   7. 7 Position croissant tops over the bottoms, cut side down.
   8. 8 Let stand over night in the refrigerator.
   9. 9 Bake at 350*F for 25 to 30 minutes or until set.
  10. 10 Cover with foil if browns too quickly.

NOTE:   I used a combination of Jarlsberg and Old Cheddar instead of the cheeses they recommended and I added  mortadella slices as one of the layers because Scootz believes that no meal is complete without meat.  I also made the mistake of not reading the recipe carefully enough beforehand and so all my croissant halves were on the bottom.  I think i t might have been prettier with them on top.

Today I am going out with my snow shoes and I am not planning to eat or drink much of anything!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Almost Christmas

Merry Christmas Everyone!

It is almost Christmas ... my lump is almost gone ... and I am back to walking Kenya (albeit with ski poles in hand).  My fitness level is not almost back to the pre-fall condition ... but that too will come in time.

I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas ... accident free ... argument free ... filled with love, peace, forgiveness and joy.

May all your relationships be as stress free as the ones you have with your pets.  It's time we all went to the dogs.  They know how to do happiness best.

And a very Happy New Year ...I am going to try to keep this thought in mind in 2011 ...

"Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything has a purpose."
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Thursday, 16 December 2010

I Am Back ...

I feel a bit like a developing photo or the dawning of a new day ... things emerge slowly and the image becomes clearer and clearer with time.

Today is Day 11

It has been a long slow process and it's not over yet, but I got out of my pyjamas for the first time on Day 8, up the hill with Erin and Kenya on Day 9 and into Ottawa with Tammy on Day 10. 

Getting up the hill with my recycling and throwing sticks for Kenya made me feel like a kid enjoying her first snowfall.  Such a sense of freedom and power.

Yesterday with Tammy was exhausting.  I was shakier than I had expected to be and the things I carried seemed much heavier now. There were times when I felt almost light headed.  But I did what needed to be done and then we went for lunch at a busy restaurant in the east end.  The fahitas were excellent and the waitress was a hoot.

She was the most open person I have ever met.  No editing went on at all.

First she reared back and did a double take when she looked at me.  Then she stared intently and blurted out, "My god you look just like my aunt.  Same brown hair.  Same style. Same eyes. Same way of dressing."  I bantered back a bit and she said it happened to her all the time.

She launched into a tale about seeing a woman on a bus who she was sure was her best friend.  "Same hair.  Same waist ... then I remembered my best friend lived in Toronto."  Tammy said something about the dopplegangers being out in force, and our waitress took off to fill our order.

When she brought the food she yelped,"Oops, sorry, ladies, I just stuck my thumb in your guacamole."

Then she got into an altercation with her manager over the price of our wine. She managed to get it for us at the price of the house wine we had ordered.  I said that should be the policy when they were out of their house wine, and she chirped, "It would be if I were in charge."

After lunch we completed our errands and by the time we got back to the lake it was dusk.  We hauled everything down to the house, and again I was surprised by just how heavy and slow the sledding was with a load on board.

I went to bed early after a recuperative bath.  Today I will be packaging and freezing meat, emptying dog food into the bin in the porch, and generally dealing with everything I bought yesterday.  And then I will get back to my present making.

I am about half-finished making a table cloth and napkins set, and I have several loaves packaged and in the freezer, and I still have to do something with the garden gifts.

I tried to get back to painting a couple of days ago but it seems that the creative part of my brain is still on sabbatical.  I did a lot of sketching with chalk and even more erasing. And then my eyes and temple throbbed as if I had been concentrating for hours on a very dense puzzle.

So ... today is tidy-up day ... and then Erin is coming for a  walk with me and Kenya.

I hope your day is peaceful and productive too.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Brain Rest

Sorry all ... I called the doctor and was told that I had suffered a concussion and the only thing that would repair the micro-tearing was complete brain rest for possibly 3 weeks ... no computer ... no tv. ... just bed rest.  I might sleep 16 hours a day.  Also Kenya will have to be satisfied with taking herself outside because I cannot risk another fall or I will be set back still further.

So  ... until Christmas you will likely not see much of me if anything at all ...

I will be back asap.

Thanks for all your posted concerns ... and Barbara ... thanks for the call and the orders to call my doctor.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Seeing Stars

Seeing stars is a slight misnomer for what actually happened when I fell very hard on the back of my skull as I walked down the hill past Lyall's.  That part of the road is snow covered glare ice because of the run-off after the rains.

I didn't actually see stars.  It was more like a blank space of a split second followed by a shivering sensation inside my skull.  As if my brain were re-adjusting its position after having been shaken.    But I understood why the cartoonists draw the reeling and the spinning stars when someone receives a blow to the head.

Then the pain started.

I lay on my back on the ice with Kenya standing motionless over me.

After a moment or so I picked up her leash and said we were going home.  I got to my feet and we headed back up the hill very gingerly.

I felt the lump that was forming ... already it filled my cupped left palm.

I scooped up snow and held it to the swelling.  It melted immediately.  I got more ... four more altogether and kept it on till I reached my lane.

At home I applied a real ice pack, took two Tylenols, and got into bed.

All this happened three hours ago and my head is still aching fiercely ... not just the back of the skull where it is swollen but also my entire head and neck.

No ... no nausea.   But I suspect I have had a mild concussion.

One thing's for sure; I won't be doing much of anything until this headache subsides.

And now I am going back to bed.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Musing about something I read ...

Recently, someone wrote: "...  I walked my dog (pathetically fettered as I am) ... stared at the hot bar at the Piggly Wiggly ...  refreshed my Facebook news feed. What would my life be, if I freed it of circumstance?"

I began to try to unravel the quote.

Exactly what is "circumstance"?

It's just all those things that make up a life, right?

How could anyone be absolutely free of circumstance if s/he were alive?

S/he could, I suppose, simply clear life of all the ties that bind ... everything from relationships to jobs to possessions that make demands on time and other resources.  Then wipe out hobbies.  Possessions make demands too.

So ... if I were to clear my life of everything that makes demands of any kind, I would get rid of my dog, my house, my car, my computer, books, DVDs, CDs, most of my clothes and household goods, all my art, everything to do with teaching or creating funky furniture, my bike, kayak, skiis, snowshoes, and kicksled, and all the human bonds: my friendships, family ties, group memberships.

What would I be left with?

The clothes on my back and a pack filled with the basic needs I take on trips.  My bank book would be heavier, and I would feel infinitely lighter ...

But ...

I would also feel awfully lost.

I derive pleasure from my dog, my home, my computer, my books, my DVDs, my art, from teaching and creating funky furniture, and from the important relationships in my life.

But more importantly they all help to define me.

And I don't think she was talking about clearing out closets or selling off CDs you seldom listen to.  I think she meant the things in our lives that demand time, energy and money (which are just other names for time).

The problem with being footloose and fancy free is that it leaves you without a home base and without the security of love. 

I have been a nomad (but even then I had my life in storage waiting for me).  It taught me that how much I needed to have a home where I felt, not only secure, but enriched, and free to be myself. 

Except for Kenya, I have no one depending on me these days, and it is liberating, but it also leaves a hollow space that cannot be filled with activity.  If I were to lose the other relationships I value, I would be very lonely.

I think my response to her question is this:

Without circumstance, without all the things that make demands on us, our lives would be empty and meaningless.

It is probably a good little exercise to remind us that we can do with fewer things, fewer demands ... but I honestly don't think it is possible to strip away circumstance and still have a life that is worth living.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

at Rowboat Flo's

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creek above road

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Check out Erin's latest blog post ...

Erin has posted a photo showing the new home of one of my funky chairs.  It is a great photo.

Erin's post


About a million years ago I was told by a psychic that I would only be happy living within the sound, sight and smell of water.   Shortly after that reading my partner and I began spending our winters on the island of Eleuthera within sight and sound of the Atlantic waves crashing on one shoreline and a short bike ride to the Caribbean's more placid shore.  I was happy there.  The psychic had been right.

But I already knew it was true because I've always sought water as a place to write or study or think.

As a child, I found that peace living on Lake Promenade in Long Branch,  right across the road from Lake Ontario, our summer playground.  A few years later, I would skip school in order to sit by the North West Arm in Halifax.  Later still, it was Lake St. Louis, part of the St. Laurence River system, that drew me to it.  Since the late seventies, Pike Lake has been my watery source of sanity and grace.  

Today the rains that are flooding our area have transformed my chortling little run-off stream into a torrential rushing river that storms down from the mountain enroute to the lake.  It is so noisy that I have had to close the window in order to think, so right now it sounds more like background white noise.  But really ... I love the sound of tumbling water.  I will take Kenya out soon so that we can visit all the little waterways that feed Pike Lake.

We will likely take the same route we took on Monday when a friend came out to walk Kenya with me.  We went up to the Five Lakes Fishing Club, an elite club with restricted membership ... you know ... the kind that can blackball potential members if they don't meet their rigorous class-based expectations.

My friend said, "One day this will all be only for the privileged few."

I replied that it already was.

But he wasn't talking about Five Lakes; he meant everything up here in these hills ... Pike Lake ... his own place with its magnificent view over the Gatineau River ... the Park trails where we have access to nature (as long as we don't have our dogs with us :-)

He meant that in twenty years only the very wealthy will be able to have a stream rushing past their home, or a lakefront property that provides them with peace, or acreage so big that you cannot see your neighbour's house.  We are the last generation to be able to live this way without great wealth.

And yes ... I know what a privilege that is.