Friday, 17 June 2011

Luck and Wisdom

Yesterday it was pure luck that I showed a visitor the baby robins that are nesting on the ladder.  One had fallen out of the nest onto the aluminum step.  The mother bird was in a nearby tree scolding as we used burdock leaves to hide our scent as we replaced him in the nest.  I try to stay away from the nest as much as possible so it really was fortuitous that I saw the problem before it became impossible to solve.  God, baby birds are ugly at this stage ... all beak with almost naked bodies.  The few straggly down hairs just make them look less warm blooded.  Only a mother bird could find them beautiful, I think.  I don't like watching hearts beat under such a fragile covering.

It was also pure luck that allowed us to discover the tick on Kenya before the necessary 2-3 days had elapsed which could have allowed the tick to pass on Lyme disease.  The vet dealt with it by saturating it with tick and flea poison, allowing a few minutes for it to die and then using tweezers to remove the entire tick intact.  He didn't charge me, likely because Kenya's meds this year did nothing for ticks.  Instead he told me to bring back the remaining meds and exchange them for meds that would work well.  I say it was luck because long haired dogs are harder to examine and this tick was near her mouth where the hair is short.  When I returned to pick up the Advantix, I learned that we have a real tick infestation up here in these hills.  I had to wait to get the medication because so many dogs had been brought in with ticks in the past two or three days.  The vet told me he'd had to remove one from his wife's leg the day before!  That tick had been sent to a lab for testing for Lyme disease.

I had my chimney swept for the first time ... and it wasn't even dirty!

Another friend is visiting this weekend  ... we haven't gotten together for ages ... and I am looking forward to spending time with her.  I hadn't seen nearly enough of Tamarack either and it was good to at least go shopping at Ikea with her and Carlos on Tuesday.

And that brings me full circle from luck to wisdom.  I am reading The Wisdom of Tuscany just now.  Nothing is new really, but he reminds me of the wisdom of living in a close community ... the kind that is easy to find in Tuscany's towns, at least in those that have not be changed by the influx of tourists with too much money. 

I think one of the reasons I love the lake even though I don't always agree with everyone's thinking, is that it is, for all its faults, my community.  A Harvard medical school study has documented the influence of people on happiness. Happy people and happy relationships help us be happier.  A live-in partner can increase our happiness by 8%; siblings who live close by by 14%; neighbours by 34%.  The only relationship that made a bigger difference was having a good friend living nearby.

He spends a good bit of time musing about our very strange propensity for living in cities or soulless suburbs where our only connection with our neighbours is that we all park our cars on the same street ... especially since people dream of quite different things than the anonymity of these places.  Most Americans wish for lives where they are known, where they make a difference, where their children can grow up safe and cared about by a whole community ... for small town lives ... but the small towns continue to disappear and be replaced by bedroom communities and sprawling urban centres.

I remember talking to an Ethiopian taxi driver in Ottawa who was returning to Ethiopia as soon as his youngest now a teenager had completed his education ... why? ... so that he could go home to life in a community where he mattered ... where people would check on him ... bring him coffee and news ... a place where  he was known.  And then he told me of someone living in a Canadian highrise who was dead for a few days before anyone noticed.  He did not want that to happen to him.

Wakefield is not an African village, nor a Tuscan small town with a piazza, but it is the closest thing to them I've found so far ...   I feel lucky to have laid down some roots here all those years ago.

Friday, 10 June 2011

The Fecundity of June

Summer is really here ... written over two days ...

Yesterday I went out for my first kayak ride to the end of the lake and back with Kenya following at her lovely steady dog paddling pace.  Then we swam and I threw sticks for her to fetch.

A large (maybe 16 inches across) turtle with wise old eyes is busy laying her eggs near my garden box.  It took me ages to convince Kenya to leave her in peace so that she could complete her task.  Kenya didn't seem to want to hurt her at all ... just curious and giving the barks she gives when she invites another animal to play with her.  However; having gone through labour several times myself, I felt the turtle probably preferred peace and quiet.

I went to get the aluminum ladder so that I could get up to a top shelf to find my solar lights for the garden and instead discovered a robin had created a nest on the top step against the house wall ... four perfect blue eggs in the nest and a mama bird who flies away every time I come around the corner.  We may have to do without our garden lights this year.  (By Friday one had hatched.)

Even butterflies seem to have exploded everywhere just recently.  Clouds of fake monarchs coloured yellow instead of orange greet me every time I open the door.

Life is good (and very fecund) just now.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Lost Writer Returns

Over a month and I have either found no time or content to blog.  Apologies once again.  I wonder if anyone is still reading! Thank you if you haven't given up on me.

Since I last posted I have been teaching quite a bit, but now I have a break until July. We visited my youngest and his partner one weekend and had a good time.  Kenya has been for her annual check-up and is in good form. I spent a few days in Peterborough visiting a dear friend ... and got my first ever speeding ticket.  Not the best way to remember the visit which was a lovely break from life.  We went shopping for clothes and art supplies, got a painting of mine framed, ate a great deal of yummy food, drove around enjoying the countryside, and we laughed and talked as if almost a year had not passed since we were last together. A nice visit.

I am expecting a number of visitors in the next while ... old friends mainly ... but also the chimney sweep.  I haven't had the chimney cleaned since I moved in.  I haven't met him but I doubt if he will arrive wearing a top hat above a thin pinched little face smeared with soot.

I also want to get down to Los Angeles to visit my son so will check out airfares and possible dates soon.

The back hoe folks were here yesterday digging out a shallow foundation for a new shed which will be hobbity and will disappear into the hill.  The roof will be flat and will be a living roof where I will plant plants that are not too particular about sunlight and will drape down over the exposed sides of the building.  Peter will start pouring cement for the pad fairly soon and then begin the construction.  I will be delighted to have a place to store stuff.  I am tired of using my screened-in porch as a junk pile.  But I think this shed will be nice enough to be used as a bunkie if I wanted to do that some summer.  Imagine sleeping in a snug cave on a hot summer night.

The birds around my feeder have been absolutely beautiful this year ... way more colourful than the winter visitors.  The lake, however, seems to have lost its pair of geese with their four goslings and the two pairs of ducks that were here in May ... I don't even want to hazard a guess about their fate ... but the lake seem very sterile this year without them.  The pair of loons are still here but remarkably quiet.  Perhaps they think they will be the next to disappear.

And now I am off to deliver a CD of a Stuart McLean story to one of my students, and to finish getting my garden in.

Enjoy the summery weather.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

4 years

I have a feeling the next four years will be a good time to be rich.  Four years of a Harper majority.  Four years of a stranglehold on truth and transparency.  Four years of bigger prisons, more fighter jets and spiraling costs to fund them.  Four years in which the poor will get even poorer and the rich even richer.  I just read this morning that the gap between rich and poor has never been greater.  What will it look like in Canada by 2015?

On the positive side, Jack Layton's voice will be heard more clearly now that he is the leader of the opposition.

I hope that the Liberal party will re-invent itself ... perhaps as a coalition with the NDP ... the only reason Harper and his Tories get anywhere is because of vote splitting.  I am not in favour of a two party system ... but a multi-party system only works when there is proportional representation ... and that is not likely to come about under a Harper majority government.

I will be just about 75 years old when I next vote in a federal election.  I sure hope that Canada and I survive till then ... and that all the people who did not support Harper this election have figured out how best to defeat the man.

I wish I believed in miracles ... and that I could hope that Harper would acquire some humility and  the ability to govern graciously rather than with an iron hand.  I wish he would become a better prime minister, one I could respect.  But miracles are not too common these days, so my only realistic hope is that the other parties will figure out how to stop him from gaining another majority in four years ... or that they teach Canadians how important it is to choose proportional representation and demand it; that it become one of the major planks in an opposition platform; that whoever wins the next election will be forced to put real democracy to a referendum.

My riding (Pontiac) ousted its Tory minister, Laurence Cannon, by the way, and we have a New Democrat in his place.  It happened because of a grassroots swell of concern that translated into intelligent voting.  I was a little worried because people were being advised to vote strategically but it was a toss-up whether to vote NDP, Liberal or Bloc.  The Bloc had stood second last time.  Liberal, Cindy Duncan MacMillan,  is a respected farmer in the area and concerned about community issues.  Mathieu Ravignat was new to electoral politics but the NDP was gaining strength in Quebec..  What to do?  What to do?  Eventually I voted with my heart and voted for the NDP ... and was lucky that so many others made the same choice for either heartfelt or strategic reasons..

In non-electoral news, life continues to be good.  Kenya and Remi are having a ball together, romping and wrestling for hours every day.  I am getting used to my new car but am horrified by its gas mileage.  And I still fear backing up.  And there are all still all those buttons I am afraid to push.  My buddy and I are splitting our lives between two places and learning to adjust to the vagaries implicit in a new relationship.  Laughter helps smooth out rough edges.  The dogs are delighted he is part of my life because they have an extra pair of hands to pat them.  I started teaching Andre this week and the first session went well.  Today I will be working with Azra and Pauline ... just three lessons left.  I will miss them, but I will also be glad to be back to one session per week.

So ... I think I will simply bury my head in dogs, paint pots, teaching, and clouds for the next four years, and forget politics until 2015. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Adjustment Time

Nothing is easy these days.  I feel as if my whole world has been turned upside down.  A good friend suggested I start walking on my hands ... but since that is not likely to happen, I guess I will just have to adjust bit by bit.

My new vehicle scares me ... steep learning curve  My new camera needs to be studied.  My new computer screen doesn't look the way it used to.  I have a couple of new teaching gigs starting next week so I have to prepare in a vacuum.   And there is someone new in my life ... and that requires an adjustment.  All of this is good ... but I am feeling a little overwhelmed just now.

So ... if you don't hear from me except sporadically ... it's just the adjustment phase ... I am climbing several steep learning curves just now ... eventually I will feel comfortable in my new skin.

On a very practical level, I pick up Remi on Thursday and he joins the family for about 10 days.

A good friend is going to be performing here in Wakefield the end of the month ... and the Ottawa Area Guild of Potters are having their annual show this weekend as well ... and it is my baby's fortieth birthday so I will be touching base with him as well.  So April is going out in a burst of flame.  maybe it will melt the last of the snow here.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Odd photo explained

Tamarack was working on my computer yesterday, and, as part of that process, trying to figure out why I couldn't find and post photos.  We posted the early photo of the staircase because that was easily available.  Still lots of work to do but it is also much further along than that photo shows.

I will be glad when the work is completed because then the mess can be cleaned up ... but it has been fun working with my friend Peter on this indoor project.

Must run ... have to get out and back in before the road becomes a sludgy river of Leda clay.  It already has crevasses that forced Tamarack to park and walk from Rowboat Flo's  yesterday.  Her car is even closer to the ground than mine and has a particularly low slung exhaust system.

Have a great week.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Let's all live, love and laugh

My week started well ... more staircase painting  ... baby hugs from Lily ... Tammy's birthday celebration ... a good night's sleep in town ... back to staircase painting on Tuesday ... and today is a prep for class and teaching day while Peter continues to paint the staircase.

The staircase is beginning to take form and I can see the possibilities for design emerging.

Lily is now 6 months and a honey.  Her mom just got a wonderful tattoo ... tasteful ... and in a place that is unlikely to droop or get flabby , leaving her at 70 with a skewed tattoo.  Black lettering curves discreetly along her instep ... a permanent reminder to live, laugh and love ... and to raise Lily within that philosophy, a philosophy that will become stronger and more necessary, rather than fading and become irrelevant as she ages.

Lily's grandmother sent me a cute reminder to do the same myself  (live the philosophy ... not get a tattoo):. a set of drink napkins decorated with the reasons women drink ... a list of annoying men (men who ...) and then ... the words: "no men". I laughed.  Also reminded me that life itself operates imperfectly ... with no easy choices.

Enjoy the rest of your week.  I intend to live, laugh ... and who knows? ... maybe even love a little!

Monday, 4 April 2011

"When will spring come?" she whined.

Still no spring up here ...

Saturday was balmy. Sunday morning the ridges in the muddy road were rigid and the puddles solid. Sunday afternoon was lovely, and this morning everything is solidly frozen again.  I have switched my ice walkers from my winter boots to my rain wellies.

The deer carcass was finally picked up by the township and now just a few feathery wisps of downy undercoat mark the spot.  Tomorrow's rain should wipe away all remaining smell and Kenya can be let off-leash on our walks again.

Yesterday we followed the deep hard indentations of perfectly preserved raccoon tracks as we walked along the road on the other side of the lake. Tomorrow's rain will obliterate them and turn the roads to sludge.  I may be forced to park further away from my house once that happens.  I usually have to for a few days each year.

The staircase is still an on-going project and its accompanying mess and clutter is beginning to get to me.  It didn't help that Kenya added to the mess when I gave her a new jungle baby to play with.  She loved it, talked to it  and squeezed it till the temptation to find the squeaker was just too much to resist.  Then she decapitated it.  This was followed by disembowelment, and then attempts to unbraid the body.  I came downstairs to discover clouds of white fluff and bits of pelt, ears, nose, eyes and extremities scattered all over the livingroom..  It cost about $4 but provided hours of entertainment.  For both of us.  I get a kick out of watching Kenya interact with a squeaky toy ... almost as much as when she treats animals on a screen as if they are real. 

Watched The Black Swan on the weekend.  What a good portrayal of insanity and grace.  No dogs in that movie.  Kenya slept.

Kenya will be very glad when spring really arrives, the lake opens up completely, we can walk more comfortably, and she can work off her energy getting fit rather than getting into trouble.  We both will.

In other news I am still sitting on the horns of a dilemma regarding my car ... and spending far too much time trying to make a decision.

And ... I received the results of the biopsy.  All clear ... just an age spot. Hmmph ... and Hooray!

Tonight we are celebrating (belatedly) Tammy's birthday by going to a tapas place we love downtown. 

Other than that, nothing new ... still cooking (tried ground turkey in a meat loaf yesterday ... too wet ... I found it off-putting ... but it tasted fine) ... still teaching (we are still playing doctor) ... Except for a strong desire for winter to end, life is good.

Hope you have a great week.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Wondering Where the Wild Things Are?

They are here at Pike Lake.

Moles are scurrying about under the snow and Kenya is very interested. She goes out on her lead and just spends her time following her nose.  Such a delicacate quivering goes on ... no rowdy excitement ... just intense curiosity ... and I haven't seen her salivate yet.

The bird feder is active ... on around and below ... the red squirrel was there yesterday.  Someone was out shooting squirrels the other day ... I guess he figured it was easier than closing in the holes in his house. Honestly!

A deer was killed a few days ago ... either hit by a car or fell off a cliff ... all their trails have been disrupted over there ... anyway, her body was a Kenya magnet and I was forced to hold onto Kenya by the tail ... and exert my dominance ... in order to keep her away from it.  She managed one little sniff and a lick of innards ... and then vomited all night ... and that is why she is tied outside these days.

The other three lake does are everywhere ... and can almost not be designated wild any more.

I haven't seen them but apparently there are twenty-some wild turkeys up in the fields of the nearest farmer.

In other news my poor little car may need a major suspension job ... will have to contemplate whether to spend large amounts of money on a car that will be fourteen in the fall ... how much is that in people years?  I canceled my snow tire change because we still have lots of snow up here ... and there would be no point in getting the tires changed if I am going to trade in my car soon.  I will get the oil changed.  I don't want her to suffer in her old age.

Today is teaching day ... so must run ... I have figured out that I clear $5 per hour for teaching ... $6 per hour for catering ... and $8 per hour for dog sitting!  Shows clearly what is valued in our society, doesn't it?

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Spring Has To Be Somewhere Around Here

The feeder is flocked with shivering birds I haven't seen all winter ...the ones that look like wild canaries and I always forget their name when they first arrive ... goldfinches ... Americans.

The sun is shining and the days are much longer ...

The snow is decaying and ugly and the odd mound of dog poop can be seen ...

I am beginning to spruce up the house in anticipation of a thorough spring cleaning.

I have started to dig my snow tires out from under a huge pile of snow and have scheduled my spring visit to Grant's Garage to have my tires installed, my oil changed and my suspension checked.

I am sorting clothes first by season and then into several piles and boxes ... ones for each season that I will probably wear ... ones I can't bear to get rid of even if I haven't worn then for several years ...  ones I will definitely give to the Sally Ann ... and ones that are fit only for the garbage bin.

But winter is hanging on up here with a cruel and frigid grip.  I washed my down parka the day before yesterday and had to pull it out to wear yesterday ... along with long underwear, winter boots, ice grippers, a hat and mitts.

And last night the air was so clear that CBC almost got lost in the cacophony of other voices.

My hydro bill corroborated the fact that this winter has been harder than the past couple of years, especially in the last two months ... my bill was $150 higher than last year's bill for this period ... Last year I turned off my heat line to the lake in March.  This year I wouldn't even think of it. And I am not one of the Ontarians being expected by her premier to freeze in the dark.

But it really must be spring ... after all it's almost April and an election is on the horizon.  Won't someone please tell the weatherman? 

By the way, check out CBC's questionnaire on your political position (the Compass)  ...I was surprised by a couple of things: first that the political spectrum in Canada is not a line running from left to right as it is elsewhere.  Instead there is one party to the distinct right and all the rest are clustered to the left of centre with the Liberals just a tad closer to centre.  Maybe Canadians should stand up and shout that a coalition would indeed be a great idea especially since that is obviously what Harper fears most and since over half the population votes for those left of centre parties anyway. The second surprise was that my responses coincided most often, not with the NDP or Liberals as I had expected but with the Bloc!  Of course those three parties and the Greens share a great many viewpoints, so it really was a toss-up. Except I have never even considered voting for the Bloc so I was surprised.

I have tried on all my slacks and now I am going back to my painting.  Have you any idea how many coats are required for vibrant colours? Enjoy the sunshine, but bundle up.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

My World Update

Just a quick post to let your know that I am alive and well and painting ... and reading ... and enjoying my insomnia by making love to a small clock radio in the middle of the night.  The radio waves seem to go directly into my body ... my heart hums ... I wonder if it is safe.  CBC Overnight is far better than CBC daytime programming.

Last night I heard all about attempts to translate Gunter Grass' newest offering ... an untranslatable book about the Brothers Grimm and their failed attempt to create a German dictionary.  They died before getting to the middle of the alphabet.  Grass has structured his book like a dictionary and to do a proper translation is impossible without creating gibberish from a masterpiece.

My staircase is going slowly.  I continue to live in the chaos of a small renovation.

Must cut this short as I have to prepare for my class this afternoon and put a third coat on a section of railing.

Have a great Wednesday and a fine end of the week.  Spring is in the air even if ice is still underfoot.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Those Firemen ...

Yesterday's firemen were standing looking up, up, up because there was a fire.  I didn't realize until Peter arrived for work after I had posted yesterday.  Apparently a tree fell on the live hydro wire and didn't trip whatever kind of safety device it should have.  Instead, the tree became a carrier of electricity and started several small fires on the mountain across the lake.  Peter saw it all, and he and someone else on the lake called it in.

So ... what happened all day yesterday ... and is continuing today ... and will likely continue until the contractor retires or dies ... is gouging (of more than one sort).  A huge earth moving machine with a crane and bucket which looks tiny against the mountain is attempting to knock down all the loose rock. 

The dogs and I went over to watch yesterday.  The bucket was slammed against the face of the hill and then a cascade of rock came down onto the machine.  This was repeated for a while and then the rubble was transferred to the truck which took it away ... somewhere ...   Then the clawing started, and still more came down. 

There is a limit to how high the crane can reach, but I guess they figure if they undercut enough, eventually they will reach bedrock.  I kind of doubt it because they are working on shale. 

And the crane is puny compared to the mountain.  It can cripple it but it can't destroy it completely. The poor mountain looks scarred and the mounds of rubble continue to grow despite the truckloads that are being hauled away.

Are they insane, or am I?

Probably me.  They have provided themselves with a never-ending task that will leach out thousands and thousands of tax dollars forever.

I took photos yesterday but cannot post them till Tamarack returns and can help me sort out why the computer software is not allowing me to export photos. 

I will also post a photo of the little jewelery box  when I can.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Looking at another microcosm ...

You may remember my mentioning the blasting taking place across the lake ... the widening of the existing road, despite the basic commonsense realization that if you cut the trees whose root systems are holding the nearly vertical mountain in place, and then blast and gouge away whole areas of supporting rock structure, that the mountain will crumble and fall piece by piece.

We told them this before they chose the cheapest solution just described.  Some of us are more knowledgeable about engineering, physics and soil than I am ... almost anyone is ... but even I know that erosion happens when you disturb the natural plant life that holds earth in place.

They had to have known.

However; they went ahead.  They based their decision on relative cost.  They always do.

I know ... the ubiquitous "they".  Well "they" in this case is the municipality ... the same municipality that has expropriated land to allow an existing plastic factory to have a cheaper place from which to operate ... no jobs for the region ... nothing positive at all except an ugly little industrial park producing ecologically unfriendly materials.    This is also the municipality that wants to put a septic waste facility for several  regions on the Gatineau River above  Wakefield; a facility that is not state-of-the-art as far as environmental controls are concerned. And a highway structure that may destroy the aquifer of the Wakefield spring on which many people depend for pure water.

I have not become actively involved in the ecological debates raging around the arbitrary  municipal decisions being made recently --- there are  too many for an old hermit to handle and many younger and more energetic activists are doing their damnedest to save out spring, to save our river, to save the environment, to save the character of Wakefield.  Thank heavens for their youthful energy and commitment.

But I think they will likely be just as ineffectual in the long run as we were with the blasting on the lake.

By the way ...chunks of the mountain have been falling ever since the blasting took place ... and the whole process seems to be accelerating.

On the weekend, a rock the size of a wood shed came down and blocked the road.  There was no emergency number to call, and the resident whose path was blocked, along with other neighbours, called the police who arranged to have a path cleared that would allow one vehicle at a time to use the road.

Since then the site has been visited by several trucks with different logos on them. Groups of official looking men spill out and contemplate the mess the mountain and the road have become.

This morning it was a  white municipality truck and a much larger red vehicle.  A group of five La Peche fire fighters tumbled out of the latter.  They clustered around looking up at the overhanging ridges of red rock to which clung some smaller trees. After half an hour they left.

Surely in a group of five practical men like volunteer firefighters there will be at least one sane head that will point out the obvious folly of cutting down more trees, of gouging back still more of the mountain.

The better solution would have cost more, but I suspect the costs are already approaching those of the better solution, and that the municipality will eventually be faced with having to do what they should have done initially anyway.

And I have not even touched on the real concern I have; safety.  What if that resident had arrived at that spot a few hours earlier ... at the moment the rock fell?  His car would have been crushed and him in it, or he would have veered to the right to avoid being struck.  He would have gone into the lake.

Does someone have to be badly injured  or killed before this municipality makes a sane decision?

I know that this is a very tiny matter, especially when the world is concerned with the real tragedies occurring in Japan and the Middle East.

Despotic politicians.  Puny man-made and ill-considered solutions to problems.  A failure to respect the terrible beauty of nature.

I know the crumbling mountain across the lake is insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it really is just a matter of scale.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Monday's Blues followed by Tuesday's Sunshine, and Wednesday's Update

Yesterday was a strange day.  I went in to pick up Shea who is our house guest this week and ran some errands in town before I collected him. All went well until I got home.  Then everything seemed to go to hell in a hand basket.

1.   My trunk wouldn't open, and that is where my groceries were.

2.   I put such things as wine and boxes containing kitchen supplies and paint cans, which were packed in the car interior on the sled and tried to get down the hill.  First one leg sank in up to the thigh and I fell into a most ungraceful sprawl in the snow.  With difficulty I hauled that leg out  and made my way down the hill sinking in to my knees with each step while preventing the sled from spinning out of control and making a much more rapid descent straight down the hill, over the retaining wall and into the building.

3.   Peter was working on the staircase and he tried to help me by using graphite in the keyhole to open the trunk. We ascertained that the inside lever was doing something at the latch end because we could hear its mechanism. But it was all sound and fury. Nothing happened to open the trunk.

4.   I made myself something to eat and headed off to visit Grant's Garage.  $28 later the trunk was working and we had no idea why.  I probably put something in the wrong place and it interfered with the latching mechanism.  The Toyota seat does not come out easily  and when Grant got it out,  I discovered huge amounts of sand and dog hair under the seat. When I get the car properly cleaned this spring I will clean that area too.

5.   I returned home and put away the groceries.  That was not easy as the the staircase and kitchen/pantry area were swathed in plastic.

6.   I let the dogs out with me while I unloaded the car and they stayed with me, so I let them out alone for a few minutes while I looked at Peter's handiwork.  Big mistake when one is a husky mix. They disappeared.

7.   I went out hunting and calling, took the car about 1 1/2 kilometres in either direction, asked neighbours if they'd seen them, and called some more.

8.   When I got home, Kenya was under the dining room table but there was still no sign of Shea.  I called Carlos.  He said Shea would come back; he always did.  He was right.  About an hour later while Peter and I were drinking tea, Kenya announced Shea's arrival.  An exhausted dog came in, had his cookie and curled up in a corner, and Peter headed home.

9.   By now I was exhausted but I tried on the clothes I bought and discovered I wanted to return almost all of them.  Problem was I couldn't find the bill.  Found all the others, but no Costco bill.  Damn again.

10.   Despite the exhaustion I had one of my now normal non-sleeping nights.  I have learned to survive the insomnia by bringing the radio into bed with me and turning it on when I awaken.  You'd be surprised how many good programmes air between midnight and 5 a.m. and music sounds better in the silent darkness too.

11.   Today has dawned bright and fairly mild and I am intending to take the dogs for a long walk as soon as Peter arrives and starts sanding.  Maybe the physical exercise will make me healthily tired in a way that mental stress does not, and I'll  have a sound sleep tonight.

And so the week begins!

Grey Wednesday  Update:

I am tired of eating sawdust, listening to incessant noise, and dealing with crusty snow that the dogs and I don't do well in.  The cake I made yesterday tastes fine but looks like a dog's regurgitated breakfast.  I will ice it today and hide the mess as best I can.  Yesterday I sent a a couple of bags of canned goods and other food a non-cook could cope with to a friend without a stove who is in a bind right now, but until the sawdust settles and can be cleaned up, it is awfully hard to find a clean pot or utensil let alone cook.  I hate renovations, especially messy ones ... and Peter, who is doing the really filthy work, is getting fed up too, so his temper is at least as short as mine. I hope our friendship survives our renovation!

I will get out this afternoon when I have my first professional haircut in about two years, and go to my class.  The dogs and Peter will remain stuck inside.

Hope your week is going better than mine is!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

When it comes right down to it ...

When it comes right down to it, I think first in terms of individual human lives rather than in big pictures.  I am a micro thinker, not a macro conceptualist.  Is that a word? That is why I ended up with a degree in literature rather than political science.  I can comprehend the pain of a single human being better than I can the force of numbers so reading about the Joad family as it struggled through the Depression had much more impact than reading textbook descriptions of thousands and thousands of North Americans who were out of work.

That is likely the reason  that, while I was stunned by the magnitude of this earthquake, and frightened by the thought of a nuclear disaster, it was Yoshiko I imagined, not the countless strangers who died under heaps of rubble.

Dear Barbara, thanks for your mail ask me about earthquake, Yes,yesterday when I was having tea at my home, suddenly terrible earthquake struck.... I hid under the table,I was so scared.... I couldn't sleep,tired ,so sad ,but I am OK now ,can't help ... mighty forces of Nature, terrible tragedy all over the Japan..... By the way, Did you get better? How are you? I have been thinking of you... please take care and keep in touch , Yoshiko 

Yoshiko is the only person I know in Japan.  She is in her mid-eighties and appears to be about 60 ... a diminutive woman who always looks stylish, even while traveling with a backpack.  

In the winter of 2009-10 she skied (downhill) 78 days in Japan and British Columbia. She wanted to make it up to the ski hill a day for every year of her life but the weather was less willing than she was. 

She is an artist whose water colours and other work hang in galleries in Japan and Europe. 

I met her two years ago when she came to River Echo to study English.  I was her driver, her guide and occasionally her dinner partner at local restaurants. 

Last summer she spent a week with me painting a tray.  Her snorkeling background gave her her colours and her subject matter. 

I hope she will be back at River Echo this summer or fall ... and I am very glad she is safe.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Failing Revolutions, Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and More Rain

Is this Armageddon?  Today's news reports certainly suggest so.

Kenya was anxious all night because of the high winds ... and as a result I was too.  Twice I crept downstairs to make sure that the wet snow was not forming a river ready to invade my house.  The last time it was caused by a tree felled across the stream.  The winds are shaking the biggest trees here.

I gave Leonard a container of the beans yesterday.  They taste like candy.  Today Peter will be helping me get the staircase ready for painting, and I will package his food and send it home with him.  I will likely tuck in a helping of pasta with meat sauce for Leonard as his luck needs a boost these days.

But ... on the bright side, the little box is coming along and I am liking what it is evolving to.  I was asked to make a jewelery box for a baby.  It's not that easy to think of ideas for a grown-up present for a baby, so it has taken me a long time to figure out what to do with the jewelry box I found last summer at a garage sale in Wakefield.  I took it apart and sanded and primed the exterior ages ago but was hesitant about how to proceed.  I think it will be whimsical enough for a baby but grown up enough to last till she is older.

And here is what Robert Genn says about painting and art in general  ... he says it well ...

Art establishes and makes tangible a time, a place, a thought, an idea.
Art, properly made, enhances and enriches the lives of others.
Art gives an opportunity to endow new life and new meaning into the ordinary.
Art gives an opportunity to design your own world, and, as in your children, create a significant immortality.
Art is hard-earned work that is its own reward and has a degree of permanence.
Art, because it's so easy to do, and yet so difficult to do well, encourages humility in the human soul.
Art is an apprenticeship that can be stretched into a lifelong education.
Art thrives on democratic ideals, freedom of expression and rugged individualism.
Art permits you to step out of the labyrinth and into a quiet corner of your own private joy.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A B of a Day

The freezing rain has changed back again to snow, Leonard's tractor battery is dead, the deer are having a terrible time in the snow that has them floundering about in my woods seeking food, and the bird seed is disappearing rapidly now that the blue jays have returned.

I am cooking bananas (that refuse after almost two weeks to ripen) the Kenyan way.  You fry chunks of banana and onion in margarine, add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and cover with tomatoes or homemade tomato sauce and cook till the bananas are still firm but easily pierced with a fork tine.  They are good and can replace potato for a meal.

I also have a great big iron pot filled with beans that are baking.  I used Madame Benoit's recipe ... chunks of pork (not salted) ... an onion coated in mustard, a little salt and a lot of maple syrup. A friend told me that my original recipe using salt pork plus salt was VERY salty.  This one may have to have salt added at the end.  In the last hour you put cored unpeeled apples on top and coat them with a butter and brown sugar mixture.  The beans are sweet and fruity and crunchy on top.

I canceled my class yesterday because I was afraid none of us would get back home safely after 7 p.m.  and got started on a little box that is harder than a chair because I am trying to get the same effect in far smaller spaces ... and am discovering my own limitations!  However ... I shall persevere.

I am not looking forward to shoveling the steps ... and I have to since Leonard has left a wall of snow taller than I am at the top of the other route up to the road.

When is this winter that started in March ever going to end?

So ... dead batteries ... unhappy Bambis ... starving blue jays eating all the bird seed  ... unripe bananas ... baked beans ... and a box ... a B of a day.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Snow Day

I spent my day shoveling ... one bout with the steps ... a second with the car ... and a third spreading salt.

That snow is sodden and heavy.

But Leonard got my road plowed out and sanded by late afternoon and the people came around 4:30 for their table and chair and were pleased ... which made me pleased too.

I also made a very good pasta sauce using local organic ground beef and stew beef ... roasted peppers, celery, onions, tomatoes and garlic and then browned the meat and mixed in the roasted veggies and tomatoes, juice, wine, and herbs and simmered everything away all afternoon.

Kenya and I went out after supper and visited with Peter and Leonard and then headed home.

I always feel good when I take a walk in the snow when the temperatures are reasonable .... as they were this evening.

Life is good!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Hope these work

It has taken me all day, but here they are ... well ... one is ...

Another Wintery Post

Another Snowy Day

I am relishing the thought of a snowed-in weekend.  Peter will pick up his food in his AWD vehicle and Leonard will dig me out on Sunday.  I will put two more coats of polyurethane on the little table and chair set for Victor, and his parents will come and get it Sunday afternoon.

So the whole weekend is one in which I am buffered by weather ... the only real demand on my time will be to shovel the steps by Sunday afternoon.

What will I do?  Dunno ... but I have a bunch of movies, several books, a couple of new painting projects, and lots of food and firewood, so I have enough to keep me happily occupied.

I don't have any wine ... but that's not a real problem as I have been off wine this past while ... not totally off it ... but just not as interested in having a glass with dinner every day.  It may have something to do with breaking my meal cooking and eating habits since I started preparing meals for Peter.  If I am preparing meals at 9 a.m. there is a different atmosphere than there is at 5:30 or 6 ... it is part of my workday rather than the beginning of my recreational time. I also tend to eat strange meals at odd times.  This morning, because I was putting the finishing touches on Peter's fare, I ended up eating tortellini with Bolognese sauce and a bit of spinach cooked with sweet onion.  Yummy!  But not really a breakfast.

This week, Peter's menu is:  
* tortellini with sauce and salad
* gingerale pork chops with raclette potatoes and asparagus
* chicken stew with corn cobbler and brussel sprouts
* meat loaf with roasted medley potatoes and green beans
* Moroccan shrimp with spirited rice and spinach

Plus ... date bread, pumpkin cake and rhubarb stewed with other fruit and topped with yogurt, strawberries and maple syrup.

We are both eating well.  The raclette potatoes are wonderful ... and fattening ... you pre-cook some potatoes, toss with olive oil and put them in a baking dish .  Then you sprinkle on ham bits and cover with thick slices of mozzarella or raclette cheese and bake at 350 ish for about 20 minutes till cheese melts.

I am still reading about the plasticity of the brain ... and concurrently a memoir by Kurt Vonnegut's son who was/is a schizophrenic.  The brain is an amazing thing ... powerful ... frightening and wondrous in turn.

I wanted to post a photo of Victor's little table and chair but my software won't cooperate.  Will do so when I can ... I like it ... and I especially like the fact that it got me interested in painting again.  It has been a while.

My class this week was fun.  Pauline demonstrated how to make saffron rice and chicken with cheese and cream and then we studied about food while our dinner baked in the oven.  When it was ready we stopped the lesson and went into the kitchen and ate a great meal ... complete with salad and wine ...a fun evening.

This coming week Azra is going to teach us a Yugoslavian craft.  It is fun working with talented friendly women ... they tell me this is their only time in the week that is just for them ... unrelated to family or work ... just a relaxing leaning time with people they like.  Sometimes groups just jell perfectly ... aren't we lucky when it happens?

Have a great snowy weekend ... and let's hope that this is our last burst of winter!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Babies and their pure unadulterated delight in life

Lily (Tamarak's granddaughter and Jesse's daughter) had just rolled off her mom's breast as I snapped this ... doesn't she look delighted with herself?  And Chelsea (Deb's grand daughter and Lindsay's daughter) is just as happy in her bath.

Babies have it right ... they live completely in the moment.

Jumble Post

Today is Sunday and I am planning to take Kenya for a good long walk, water the plants, continue work on my little table and chair set, and continue reading The Brain that Changes Itself.

This last is a highly readable book about the plasticity of the brain written as a series of stories about the research and the people who have been helped by this relatively new understanding of the brain.

I just finished reading Cutting for Stone and recommend it.  The novelist is a medical doctor, the story is set in Ethiopia and the USA, the characterization is very good and the plotting is flawless.  It also allows us to learn a great deal about surgery and obstetrics that I found interesting.  I like books that give me new knowledge as well as entertain me.  And this novel is also beautifully written.

The table and chairs have been primed and painted and the table top is just about finished ... four plates, each sporting an African animal.  My favourite is the zebra.  I wish I were good enough to produce consistently pleasing drawings and paintings ... but I am not ... so we have an dull little hippo, a dainty giraffe and a cute lion ... and a zebra with whom I am satisfied.  Today I want to get the legs and trim parts completed. Usually I start with the trim work and do the pictures last.  I am not sure why I didn't do that this time ... but the effect is that I really want to finish it now that the tough part has been completed.  These pieces have so many stages ... everything from the ugly work of cleaning up the pieces to doing the boring work of priming to choosing colours and applying them to designing and executing the main images ... and then the really fun part of playing with the rest of the piece -- lots of colours and shapes ... lots of experimentation goes on ... and I enjoy myself.  I am best at trying and seeing and building bit by bit.  The chair is going to be a suggestion of a teddy bear  ... so the whole set will be my version of the teddy bears' picnic.  I hope the little boy and his family like it.

My eye is almost completely healed.  I won't get any results till the end of the month so I am still a bit nervous ... but what can we do, eh?

Kenya met two golden retrievers yesterday ... and scared the owner, a friend of Peter's.  She and the male, Toby, sniffed each other and were okay but the little female, Molly, jumped on top of her and Kenya reacted nastily.  She never bites but she snaps nearby and gets the fur wet with slobber ... and sounds as if she is going to murder the other dog.  We all decided to leave it for now. 

Kenya was terribly unhappy when they all disappeared and I said, "Well, you were too damned stupid to see that you could have had a couple of playmates if you hadn't been so damned bitchy."  She hung her head, and I headed over to deliver Peter's food without her.  I played with both dogs and had a good time ... I think they could all have managed to enjoy each other eventually ... but we are going to have to figure out how to facilitate that.   I am thinking of approaching a dog trainer and seeing if  s/he can help me train Kenya out of this kind of initial nastiness when she meets a new dog.

Not much else is new ... I have spent the last week doing what I always do (teaching ...  preparing meals ... etc) but basically taking it easy recuperating from that flu bug and the small surgery ... more when I have something to say ...

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Reverse Roller Coaster Ride

February 19, 2011
Roller Coaster Riding

Well, this week has not been filled with my finest hours! Taking the roller coaster ride backwards as a retrospective trip, here it is:

TODAY I have a black eye that hurts and doesn't see too well.

YESTERDAY:    This is the result of the surgical procedure I had yesterday morning, during which the surgeon removed my eyelashes and then excised the lesion and sent it for a biopsy, and said he thought it might not be skin cancer.

I almost didn't make it to have that surgery done because at about 7 a.m. my car refused to climb the hill of  water-covered ice leading out to the public road.  I tried backing down, but driving in reverse has never been my forte and so I landed in huge piles of snow precipitously close to the place where the run-off stream comes down through a concrete pipe with a diameter of about three feet under the road. 

I crawled out the passenger side and called Peter for help. But I got a wrong number and some very kind old man told me how sorry he was that I was in trouble but he couldn't help.  By the time I got hold of Peter I was smiling at my good fortune that I had disturbed a kindly soul.

Then I called Peter and he came over immediately and told me that he could not come down the hill either because of the conditions, and he couldn't get me out without help.And his truck was in really bad shape and he doubted whether it would make it to Tammy's and back.  We solved the problem by having Tammy (also rousted out of bed and unshowered, coffee-ed or fed) meet us in Chelsea.

Tammy and I headed in to the General's Eye Institute and had a breakfast that made me feel a little queasy.

Then I had the procedure done.  I came out of it feeling decidedly light headed, but the pain didn't begin for another while.  I was awfully glad that Tammy was driving me because I could not have driven myself.

Tammy got ready for an afternoon job and Carlos drove me back home stopping enroute to get the things I needed from the pharmacy, and, now that things were mushy enough back at the culvert, shoveling enough snow away to back my car into its parking spot so that the road could be sanded.

Kenya and I spent the rest of the day following doctor's orders and taking it easy.

THURSDAY: That is also how we spent Thursday ... all day ... recuperating.  Nothing to say.  I slept all day.

WEDNESDAY: Wednesday started out beautifully.  I went skiing with Mary, a friend I met through snow shoeing.  We had a great morning and then had lunch afterwards at Molo's.

I called Tammy around 2:40 and learned that a terrible flu had raged like some kind of manic cyclone  through their entire household.  It hit suddenly without warning, tossed their digestive systems into chaos for 24 hours and then left them with no energy at all for the next day.  I had visited them on Monday.  We both hoped that I had not contracted it.

It was no longer than fifteen minutes later that the first wave of nausea hit me.  I spent the next 24 hours making love to a stainless steel bowl which received first the contents of my stomach ... the wine and clam chowder I'd eaten in Wakefield a few hours before, and then wave after wave of intestinal contents.  That terrified me because I seldom vomit, and never vomit up what looks, smells, and tastes like feces.  Yes, yes, how would I know what feces taste like, right?  Well, now I know.  You don't want to have the first hand experience necessary to find out what it tastes likes, believe me.

SO ... back to the PRESENT:

Now I wait for 6 weeks to find out what the biopsy revealed.  In the meantime I find out why there seemed to be a blockage preventing those fecal contents from taking their usual route.  And I take it easy until I feel like my old self again.  The antibiotics that I have to put in my eye four times a day cause blurring vision so I suspect I will not be reading or writing too much for a while.  Bear with me once again, please.

In other news this week  ... I read Eat, Pray, Love and watched the movie again as I did so.  They are both wonderful experiences, not identical, but definitely complementary.  And now I have started a book about orphaned twin boys born in Ethiopia to an Indian nun and the British doctor at the hospital where she assisted him.  The little I have read makes me sorry I may have to postpone reading for a while.  last night I watched Dangerous Beauty again ... about the Venetian courtesan ... a movie about love of all kinds ... and I started to watch Passchendaele.  That will be on the agenda for today.

Kenya cried all last night because the wind howled and whistled in at the corners of the house making her feel threatened and uneasy.The only thing that seemed to calm her was having her tummy and throat stroked while she lay in my arms.  I hope that we will both get more sleep tonight.

I also hope that this return to winter weather will allow all of you to enjoy Winterlude or whatever February activities you enjoy when it is cold and blustery.  Me ... I plan to watch the end of Passchendaele and take it easy this next few days.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Chicken Pot Pies and Hedgehogs

After almost no sleep ...

I got up at 8:30 or so ... fell asleep at about 4:30 ... and begged off snow shoeing.

Then I made a chicken pot pie ... cooked chicken, chicken gravy, freshly cooked potatoes, carrots and onions under a tea biscuit crust.  It looks lovely but I am not overjoyed with the flavour.  I may pop Peter's portion in as an extra with the instructions to re-heat in the oven and apply spices liberally ... and eat as soon as he receives it.  Or I may play it safe and not damage my reputation by giving him any even as a gift!

I finished my first reading of The Elegance of the Hedgehog ... and now want to read it again soon ... savouring it.  But first I want to finish reading Eat, Pray, Love which I started last night.

Hedgehog is a story about two protagonists caught in the world where materialism reigns. One has given up on love; the other on life.  They hide their real identities and pretend to be dullards, but they are found out by a Japanese man with exquisite taste and no pretensions.  The book is about more than that simple plot line.  It is about life, beauty and transience and how they are linked.

I think I wrote in an earlier post that this book is really philosophy masquerading as fiction, and so what remains after this first reading is the ideas and insights which, like the spirits of the newly dead, hover around the body for a while after the light goes out..

Here are some of the quotes that stayed with me and made me think ...

"I was in the back room, euphoric, my eyes filling with tears, in the miraculous presence of Art."

"Why do two short, unexplained scenes, not driven by anything in the plot, arouse in us such a powerful emotion, containing the entire film between their ineffable parentheses?"

"True novelty is that which does not grow old. despite the passage of time."

"The contemplation of eternity within the very movement of life."

"If you forget the future, you lose the present."

"When movement has been banished from a nature that seeks its continuity, when it becomes renegade and remarkable by virtue of its very discontinuity, it attains the level of esthetic creation.  Because art is life, playing to other rhythms."

"... pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language."

"Perhaps the Japanese have learned that you can only savor a pleasure when you know it is ephemeral and unique; armed with this knowledge, they are yet able to weave their lives."

"Birch trees/ teach me that I am nothing/And that I am deserving of life"

"I suddenly felt my spirit expand, for I was capable of grasping the utter beauty of the trees."

"For art is an emotion without desire."

"Eternity: for all its invisibility, we gaze at it."

"... beauty consists of its own passing, just as we reach for it.  it is the ephemeral configuration of things in the moment, when you can see both their beauty and their death .... does this mean that this is how we must live our lives? Constantly poised between beauty and death, between movement and its disappearance?  Maybe that is what being alive is all about: so we can track down those moments that are dying."

The last few words of the novel: "Don't worry, Renee.  I won't commit suicide and I won't burn a thing.  Because from now on, for you, I'll be searching for those moments of always within never.  Beauty in this world."

It is a book that made me want to escape the demands of the world, seek out the spare tranquility of a Zen garden, and meditate. 

Monday, 7 February 2011

O Mein Papa

Do you remember the Eddie Fisher song from the fifties?  Likely not ...

But I was a kid being raised  (or not) by mein papa ... and the song has remained with me all these years.

My dad was very imperfect ... he had been raised without a father himself and he really didn't know how to be a good father.  But he loved me and I loved him.  And the older I get the more I realize that that is really all that is important now.

Anyway ... I have been looking up recipes to use as I feed Peter every week ... and so I am seeking out old sources.

I keep coming across recipes that my dad left me.  Some of them are in his handwriting ... and all those feelings of love and regret that he is no  longer part of my life well up every time I see that handwriting.

It has nothing to do with whether or not he was a good cook or a good father ... it is all about love ... all about family.

And that is what the Eddie Fisher song was all about too.

Found it!

A Very Good Meat Loaf

Combine and place in loaf pan:

                 *  1 1/2 lb. ground beef
                 *  1 slice bread chopped or broken finely
                 *  1 egg
                 *  1 small onion finely chopped (sweet is nice)
                 *  1 t. salt
                 *  1/4 t. pepper
                 *  4 T. ketchup (the best you can find)
                 *  1/2 - 2/3 c. milk or half and half
                 *  1-2 t. Worcestershire Sauce

Sauce to be poured over and on sides of meat loaf:

                *  4 T. apple cider vinegar
                *  2-4 T. brown sugar
                *  1/2 c. ketchup

Bake at 350 degrees for about 75 minutes till done.

Enjoy!  This is my favourite comfort food ... served with creamy mashed potatoes and a veggie ... either my Oma's spinach puree with chopped green onions or garlicky green beans or carrots slathered in butter.


Bereft ... well ... sort of ...

I can't find the recipe I used to make the meat loaf that Peter loves.  It was soft and had bread, milk and egg in it ... but it was tomatoey sweet and spicy as well with a lovely glazey saucy topping.

I have hunted everywhere in my own cookbooks and have now gone on-line. There are lots of recipes but I can't be sure I have found the right one.

This is important because there is only one mini-loaf left in the freezer and when I ask Peter what he wants me to make, he says he likes everything but especially the meat loaf.

This is one  that kids would love. 

Do you have a favourite recipe that you always make ... or do you just play it by ear/eye/aroma  & taste buds, putting everything but the kitchen sink in?

Since starting this cooking for Peter, I am cooking smarter than I used to.  Some of my favourite tricks are ways to deal with fresh veggies.  I buy peas and green beans  in bulk at Costco, and blanch/freeze the ones I don't use immediately so that I can pull them out of the freezer on Saturday morning and quickly stir fry them with olive oil, butter, and garlic or shallots to add to the meals.  With asparagus, I keep it as dry and cold as possible in an open plastic bag and when I am ready to cook it,  I stir fry it quickly and dress it with grated orange peel or tarragon.  As soon as tomatoes no longer tempt me to eat them raw, I oven roast them with garlic, onion, and olive oil, then buzz them in the blender and freeze them for sauces.  I no longer have leftover veggies that rot in my fridge ... one of the dangers of living alone.

I am also losing weight.  I am not sure whether it is because I am always surrounded by food or whether it is because I feel no compunction to eat up the left overs, or because I don't cook Peter's carbohydrates till Saturday morning so I am tending to eat lots of veggies with a little protein rather than a lot of rice or potato or pasta with veggies and protein.  Maybe it has to do with when I eat ... earlier in the day.  I hope it is not because the food is terrible!

Our LONG lesson on Saturday afternoon was fun.  We had enchiladas, salad and wine and then went out snow shoeing.  Diane took us up hill  and down dale through the woods, and told us how to avoid problems with bears.  On one of the particularly steep places I kept slipping.  i finally got up with help.  Diane pulled me up by my ski pole and Pauline pushed on my fanny!  Afterwards we had cocoa with a ginger, lemon, oatmeal cake.  Then we began our lesson.  We were all so tired and full we decided against our original plan of having dinner in Wakefield.  Six hours with three great women.   Nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Oma's Big Day in Town ...

I decided to stop in the village yesterday and treat myself to lunch and a glass of wine.  Big mistake.

But to backtrack a little.  It was Friday.  My car had been boosted twice in just over a week and I was pretty sure the battery was on its last legs.  Five years ago I had bought it at Canadian Tire with an extended warranty.  I checked out the paperwork and headed in to town to get the work done free.

Yes, indeed, it was dead.  Yes, they would replace it ... almost free.

The waiting room at the Carling location is large and open concept. A television whirrs in the background making it difficult to do much more than watch it or the people around you.  If the show was representative of CTV programming I fear for the future of the nation.  Several cooks were preparing food for the Super Bowl.  I had just read a couple of articles in The Citizen about the fact that Canadians have nearly reached the BMI of their SuperSize cousins in the States.  Watching the food preparation on-screen, I understood why.

The first two cooks were preparing ENORMOUS sandwiches in which they stuffed mounds of sauerkraut, smoked meat, and french fries ... yes ... french fries. I guess the idea was to produce a dish that could be hand held and complete.  The problem was that the top piece of bread kept falling off.

The larger of the cooks settled it back on and then licked her fingers.  When it fell off again she used the same fingers to settle it back on its precarious perch.

I thought about the 500 pound woman I had just read about who is encouraging us all to embrace obesity, about restaurant meal preparation, about germs, and turned away from the tv.

I concentrated on the people in the room, none of whom weighed 500 pounds or seemed inclined to reach that goal by eating 10,000 calorie sandwiches while slouching about on a couch this weekend.

One was telling the service personnel that he was bringing a suit against someone because so many unnecessary repairs had been done on his vehicle.  He had long lists and photos. The staff seemed nervous and exceedingly polite.

An older man was told told that he needed to have something done to his vehicle instead of just having over $900 worth of tires installed because his old tires had worn unevenly.  He refused.

One young and very pregnant woman made several trips to the washroom and then sat sniffling and playing with her I-phone.

A young couple teased one another and romped on their chairs like frisky puppies.

The service manager announced that my car was ready and I headed home, stopping to visit Tammy who is recovering from very painful surgery and is not a happy camper. 

By the time I got to Wakefield I was hungry and wanted a nice glass of wine. 

I remembered reading the following in the Wakefield News:


We've all had a good break and have re-opened with a new menu (and still some old favorites). Hope to see you out -- we missed our village.

I decided to stop at Le Hibou. I talked to the owner, sat down and she brought me the new menu.  I made my choice ... and then waited.  For half an hour, I waited.  The owner seemed distracted and there were no waiters in sight, just a young man peeling potatoes or something in the kitchen.  Finally I left and went over to Rutherford's and sat down there.

The waiter arrived promptly and I decided I had made the right decision, even though there would be no glass of wine as they are not licenced.  The food, however, is excellent ... local, reasonable and tasty.

There was a family of five sitting at the next table of those families that somehow take over a restaurant.  You know, the ones who make it impossible for other customers to carry on conversations because their presence is so insistent.  Oh well, I thought, I will read.  Even that wasn't easy because the noise level escalated and the two younger children (about 10 and 12) got into an argument. The parents made no real attempt to de-escalate things.  They just got louder themselves. Patient and accepting ... but louder.  Now I was listening to loud kids arguing and even louder parents showing just what good parents they were by maintaining their calm.

Suddenly the little girl screeched, first at her parents, then at her brother,  and then she  threw a piece of chicken breast at him.

It did not hit him, however; it hit me.

"Hey!" I yelled in my best old teacher voice.

The parents finally began to act as they should have from the beginning.  They took control.

The first thing they did was send the two younger children from the table to cool off, and told them to apologize to me.

The boy dashed past my table smirking.

The girl followed him muttering "excuse me" as she rushed past.

The mother insisted that she pick up the chicken and apologize properly.

She hunted for it.  I pointed to it now sitting on the chair beside me.  She muttered, "I'm sorry," and ran after her brother.  I said to her retreating back, "I hope you don't usually act this way in restaurants."

Everything became very quiet and I returned to my book.

Five minutes later the rest of their food had arrived (enough to feed a Haitian village) and the father went out to search for the kids.  He brought them back and the entire family began to behave the the way one expects people to behave in a restaurant ... quietly ... not disturbing the peace ... having respect for other diners. 

Too bad it took a flying piece of chicken and a grumpy old woman to make them realize that a restaurant is a public place and people ought to do their best to ensure that they and their children do not intrude on the enjoyment of others.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Snow Day !

Snow days are gifts from the gods.    Kids understand that ... and so do teachers.

They are the holidays which fall into our laps unexpectedly.  We awaken to the news on CBC or we get a chain phone call at 6 a.m., or, as was the case this time, we are given a couple of days warning that we are going to be in for a big dump of snow.

Snow days mean that we can't, simply can't, get on with our normal pursuits.  We are forced to take a day off from life.

The undone homework is no longer a problem.  The  pile of essays that has been weighing heavily on my conscience can now be marked because I have been given an uninterrupted period of time in which to mark.  And ... if we are not burdened by such guilty concerns ... we can simply go out and play on our snow day.

Yesterday I canceled my Wednesday class and arranged to extend the Saturday class to include lunch, snow shoeing and a restaurant visit.

Now I am free!

This morning I got up at 6:30 as usual, filled some buckets with water "just in case", settled in at the computer with my tea, and, as the light began to dawn was able to watch the snow fall outside my window.

One window faces west into the darkness of the woods, and there the snow just filters steadily down against the darker backdrop.  The other looks out on the lake to the north, and there the view is much foggier, a grey expanse against which the white snow is visible only because of its motion.  I already feel as if I am snowed in ... trapped ... happily ... in my cozy nest.

I am going to make marmalade chicken breasts, bake banana cake, put the primer coat on the little table and chair, and start reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog which arrived yesterday with three other books and the DVD, Secretariat.

I watched the dvd immediately ... what a lovely break after the last two movies  I endured, both about unpleasant dedicated people who left their mark on the world.  I seem to prefer a horse who gives his all ... a horse that is all heart ... to people who are all head and no heart.

And maybe I will also go out and play with Kenya ... can't let a snow day be all about work ... even pleasant work like painting and cooking. And Kenya quite literally bounces when I take her out to play these days, and her enthusiasm is infectious.

How are you going to spend your snow day?  I hope it will be a special day.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

No News Sunday

My life has become so boring lately that I cannot find anything worth sharing with you.

Weekend ...    tidied up porch
Monday ...     iced in ... baked
Tuesday ...     iced in lesson and food prep
Wednesday ...X-ray and teaching
Thursday ...    Tired
Friday ...         Felt as if I'd been run over by a truck so didn't go snow shoeing
Saturday ...     Tammy and her gang came out and helped get the wood supply down the hill and into the porch

That was the best day ... Lily the wonder babe entertained us all and then nursed and fell asleep.

Apart from that ... I finished reading The Sentimentalists ... and felt relieved to be finished with it ... watched some good movies ... have started reading Vimy by Pierre Berton ... excellent  ... but I really want to read a piece of fiction that gathers me up in its covers and transports me to a whole new world of the imagination.  i have ordered a couple that I have hopes for ... Elegance of the Hedgehog and Cutting for Stone .

Next week does not appear to be terribly exciting ... I teach twice ... on Wednesday and then again on Saturday here at the lake.  I will make a lunch, one of my students will take us out snowshoeing and give us an interpretive tour, and then we will complete the lesson.  The rest of the week I expect to be cooking and painting that little table and chair.

Hope your days are more exciting than mine are!

Sunday, 23 January 2011


Sunday morning ... and a good day to hunker in by the fire, the computer and the DVD screen ... or maybe return to the down-filled nest with a book.

I am reading The Sentimentalists.  I wish I were enjoying it more.

I just ordered Eat, Pray, Love (the book) because two people have told me that they felt the book was far richer than the movie.  Me? .... I loved the movie ... so I am really looking forward to the original.

I also ordered a book about how the brain regenerates itself and changes its circuitry even after traumatic incidents.  Who knows what my brain is doing there inside its cracked little egg?

And the third book I ordered was recommended by Mary Ito (sp?) who hosts Fresh Air on Sunday mornings.  I love her choice of music and she invariably mentions movies and books that I too enjoy.  This one is called Wait for Me ... by one of the six strange Mitford sisters ... Deborah the Duchess.  I can't remember all their names but one was a fascist, another a communist, another a writer ... all seemed interesting ... and Mary characterized them with these single nouns. This book is autoiography and tells the story of the author and her sisters.

I also ordered Passchaendale but have to wait for that DVD ... as I have to wait for Barney's Version and The King''s Speech.

I do have to go out at least once today.. and who knows? ... maybe I will enjoy the day and stay out and play a bit.  On Friday I went snowshoeing for about 1 1/2 hours in the woods and was perfectly comfortable exercising out of the wind.  It's much more fun snowshoeing on bushwhacking trails than simply slogging along a road.  

I have to take over the final part of Peter's order and, with it, the instructions for a couple of things but after that I think I will just stay close to the home fires.

Yesterday was an eating day ... in fact we (my guests and I) couldn't finish all the food.  We started with a Lebanese tray of goodies with pita, went on to oven roasted veggie soup, and from there to beef wellington, mashed potatoes and stir-fried veggies, and then to apple cake with whipped cream.  We did not have room for the salads. 

The beef tasted fine but I would make radical changes to the recipe ... FAR too many peppercorns ... not NEARLY ENOUGH filo sheets ... so the beef ended up looking like a blob covered with the wine/mushroom/shallot/ duck liver sauce.  Bits of dingy grey sogginess clung to it.  The whole thing should have been encased in a puffy crust.  The peppercorn cream sauce masked the final product that came to the table ... but I cook with everyone watching and helping so we all knew what was hiding under there!

Before my guests arrived, an entire family came to make decisions about which furniture they wanted me to paint for the newest little boy.  Both little boys were there, the parents of one, the mother of the other and the grandmother of the family.  They decided on a small table with a chair and want it done in gentle blues and greens with animals.  I am looking forward to starting a new project.

Tomorrow I will get the x-ray done .... and next week the temperatures are supposed to moderate a little so I hope I can go out and play.  I hope you are having a great weekend whether you are living in the icebox that is central Canada or some place where the temperatures are balmier.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Old Labs

You might well ask what old Labs have in common with me and why they are showing up on this blog.

A hint ... it has only a little to do with either medical labs or with Chelsea the old and lumpy Lab I sometimes care for.  However; I do seem to be going to the dogs at an accelerated rate lately.

My son laughed when I told him about my lumpiness and said I was aging like an old dog.

My doctor, on the other hand, was not amused.  She is sending me to an eye surgeon to have the lump on my eyelid excised and biopsied, and I have to have my skull x-rayed Monday because she thinks I fractured it when I fell.  There is not a lot that an x-ray can tell as far as I can understand beyond whether it was indeed fractured, but she says it may indicate the need for more poking about with an MRI or CTScan to see if the brain itself was damaged.

She asked whether I had noticed any drop in intelligence and I laughed and said, "No, but then I live alone with a dog, so who would tell me?"

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Why can't a man be more like a woman?

Yes, I know it sounds like an inversion of the famous "My Fair Lady/Pygmalion" complaint mouthed by Henry, the old curmudgeon and lover of language ... and that is a little scary since I may well fit that description myself.

But honestly.

I keep meeting really interesting women who would be lovely mates if only they were men!

I am not thinking of the stereotyped images of either sex, but fully fledged and interesting ... and fit ... in all ways ... mentally, physically, financially, morally, sexually  ...

I have recently been meeting men who have some or even most of those attributes, but too often they are sadly deficient.  But I meet women who seem whole all the time.

The woman I met most recently said things like: "Oh, I can't be bothered with men; they all seem to need mothers", "The ones I meet have no sense of adventures at all", "I met one who spent his entire year traveling from one of his offspring to another and wanted someone to share that life!  Good grief!" and "All the men I have met on-line seem like dorks."

Another started her last email with the salutation "Men, shmen" and proceeded to write in a most interesting, independent fashion.

Still another sighed and stated with finality, "They are all boring, you know, even the good ones."

A very old friend decided several years ago that men were fine as friends but she was quite quite finished with the idea of a relationship with one.  She much prefers the company of the women she knows.

Anyway, so far,  the men I have met whom I had some hopes for have proven to be mentally ill, physically decrepit, poverty stricken, virtually homeless, lacking friends, without much of a life and/or boring.

The woman I just met the other day may have the answer.  She says she is going to start looking for Latin men.  At least life would be interesting with them!

I dunno about that as a solution but I am going skiing with her on Tuesday.  Maybe I will learn more.  She seems to have thought things through pretty carefully, and, like me, she's still hopeful.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

A grey Saturday Morning at the Lake

This has, once again, been a busy week that has flown by.

I taught Wednesday and spent most of Thursday in Ottawa.  I was exhausted after a day of appointments and errand-running, so tired that I went to bed without supper at 7:30 and slept for 12 hours!

On Friday the weather was beautiful and I spent two hours snowshoeing with Tom and his five old ladies ...  three of us in our seventies and two in their late sixties.  It was all uphill for 3.5 k. on the way out and much more pleasantly downhill on the return journey.  Kenya had a wonderful morning bounding hither, thither and yon.  She probably got in about 20 kilometres, most of it running.

One of the women was a new acquaintance and her xc skiing skills and courage seem to be on a par with my own.  I think we will get together some time soon.  It is hard to find someone who wants to ski but is as cautious, slow and inept as I am!

I have been invited to go on a moonlight potluck snowshoeing jaunt in the park with a much faster moving group on Monday evening.  Not sure whether I will make it.  It is 4 k. each way ... and I was exhausted by yesterday's excursion.  However the 8 k. would be broken up by a convivial meal around the woodstove at one of the cabins.  I will see how I feel after I have dealt with my day on Monday ... another trip to town that may end up being tiring too.

Today is meal delivery day ... so a morning of last minute veggie etc. preparation followed by packaging and delivery.  This week (as predicted)  has been much easier than last week was.  Instead of baguettes I am tucking in a tortilla dish made with my own tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes, black beans and Monterey Jack cheese.  I had it for supper last night and really liked it.  I am going to do more with tortillas from now on. I had intended to have salmon but again was too tired ... so that will be lunch today!

The other news is that I received an email from someone who bought one of my rocking chairs for her son last year and now wants another for her nephew.  I don't, unfortunately, have any rocking chairs available to work on ... but I will see what I can do.  If anyone reading this sees a child's rocker that needs a paint job and a new occupant, please let me know.

So ... I have managed to balance the week ... reading, writing, cooking, teaching, and snowshoeing ... not sure I've got it right yet.  Maybe the problem is that I am seventy years old and trying to fit too too many things into an old lady's week.

I am planning to play on the kick sled tomorrow ... or ski or snow shoe ... we are getting a dump, I hear.

Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


I have been remiss ...

I used to blog daily ... then every couple of days ... now it seems to be coming down to once or twice a week.  Does that mean I have a life in the here and now?

I miss the reflective nature of blogging when I don't do it regularly.  Just sitting down and thinking about things ... looking back ... pondering ... looking forward ... it is all important to me.  My life seems to become a half life when I don't take the time to reflect.

Lately I have been consumed by preparing meals and teaching.  I need to balance my life again. (God, how often do I have to remind myself to do that?)  Anyway ... this will be a kind of resolutionary blog post ... an attempt to find balance through reflection ...

I have prepared the beginnings of most of the meals I will deliver on the weekend ... a beef stew base that is luscious ...  yogurt breaded pork chops ... a chocolate banana cake.  On Friday night I will dine on salmon the leftovers of which will then become salmon pasta primavera on Saturday when I will also prepare the fixings and the soup, and package and deliver everything.   Between then and now I will pick up any necessary additions like bread and salad makings.

My lesson for today is all ready and in the bag I carry to River Echo.  Three hours of preparation for three hours of teaching this week.  Still too much but at least saner.  We are working on tenses and using the film "Babies" as a base.  If you haven't seen it, do ... four babies ... two from developed countries (Japan and the USA) and two from developing countries where I have worked and come into contact with the nomadic people portrayed in the film ... Namibian Himbas and Mongolian herders.  The first year of the babies' lives is documented.

Kenya and I just got back from a longish walk.  I was going to go skiing this week but discovered one ski boot was filled with ice.  It is is still drying out.  On Friday I will be out with our snowshoeing group ... about two hours of snowshoeing, followed most likely by an impromptu social get together.

One of the things that has occurred since I fell in early December is that I seem to have given myself permission to be lazy.  I quite like it!  I have watched a few good movies ... The Governess ... The Ugly Truth which is predictable and not great, but funny enough in one spot especially, to make me howl with laughter ... My Sister's Keeper which brought tears ... and Baby of the Bride ... another slight film but I liked it.  My favourite lately was Eat, Pray, Love ... I watched it twice ... reminded me of a dear friend who has been ill recently and looks for all the world like Julia Roberts ... and thinks and behaves like the character she plays in this movie.

I have also been reading ... just finished The Matter with Morris ... and have started to read The Sentimentalists ... both about the aftermath of wars in far away places ... Vietnam and Afghanistan.  Not bad ... but not completely riveting either.  But that may be me ... perhaps I am a little scattered just now.

My head still hurts and I suspect from the strange long wriggly lump I can feel that I may have cracked my skull when I fell.  There was no blood but this feels like a healed irregular fissure.  I probably should have it and the warty thing on my eye and the smooth lump behind one ear looked at one of these days.  Some people get grey hair.  I become lumpy. Damn this aging anyway!

And that ... she said ... is that for now.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Whew ... end of a busy week ... time to play

If I charged by the pound for contents, packaging and delivery I would be making about 25 cents a pound ...

It has been a hectic week ... back to teaching with huge amounts of prep time needed ... then making five multi-stage meals, desserts and homemade soup in a short period of time.

This is what I accomplished:

a kitchen that is a disaster
a fridge and freezer that are jam-packed and totally disorganized
several partial meals in the freezer

The boxes that are going out contain:

chili con carne with herby salad and french stick
pasta with a hearty meat sauce, spinach salad and french stick
chicken kebabs on rice with green beans and almonds
pork roasted in apple cider with oven roasted veggies and apple sauce
chicken stew with mushrooms, carrots and potatoes
dressings for the salads
banana bread
pumpkin cake
extra pasta sauce
grated parmesan
instructions for keeping and cooking


Today I am going to get my fridge and freezer re-organized and pre-cook any veggier that might not last till next weekend.

Next week should be easier because I have some cooked meat portions etc in the freezer now.

Right now I am going on my delivery run ... and this afternoon I am going out to play.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Post Script:

Just got back from playing on the kicksled with a new friend who had a ball with it.  The fresh powder snow is wonderful for good runs on the hills.

I made a roasted tomato sauce that we had with nice bread; also a spinach salad for tonight and my Oma's pureed spinach with green onions and butter.

And I have got my garbage and recycling up the hill and organized the fridge and freeze.  I feel MUCH better now ...  Playing in the snow does wonders for the soul.  So does feeling on top of things!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

a new career ...

January 4, 2011

A New Career ...

Well not really ... just another way to play at life using the life skills I've developed over 70 years.

One of my buddies who does not feed himself well and is tired at the end of a working day has commissioned me to make his meals 5 days a week. I make enough $$$ to cover my costs plus the ingredients for my own meals and he comes home to an easy ready to heat meal during the working week.  So far I have made breaded pork chops with mashed potatoes and a carrot/leek/celery side dish plus chili con carne with french stick and green side salad. He likes surprises and not too much heat so it will be be fun.

I am also starting back with my lovely quebecoises this Wednesday.  We are starting our time back with old fashioned folk and fairy tales ... with just a splash of feminist philosophy thrown in for good measure.

I have been off work for a full month now ... and it is time to replace the stars in my eyes with practical dollar signs ... while still having fun.

Off we go!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Putting On the Brakes

I read something this morning and thought about the brake pedals in my life.

Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain.

The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today?

(Mary Manin Morrissey Minister, Author and Speaker)

I lived with someone for seven years ... a good man ... independent ... healthy ... athletic ... but he had two hang-ups that determined how we lived together and ultimately why I left.

The first was about weight gain and activity levels. 

His wife had been a cute little thing when he met her in high school but after their marriage she became inactive, grossly obese, and slovenly.

Any time I was sick or had an accident that prevented me from keeping up, I could I feel an invisible whip coming down on my shoulders.  Once, biking in Eleuthera, I fell on loose gravel on a steep coral road and got a horrible gash in my knee.  Because it was a coral cut it took forever to heal, but I was not allowed to stop biking even for a moment.

If I gained a pound I was subjected to ridicule.

I realized that I could not grow older with him because I was not allowed to age normally.

The second was his fear of allowing a woman into his life, of allowing her to truly become his partner.
He was determined to keep himself free of any real entanglements so he put up barriers to prevent anyone from getting too close.  He made all the decisions.  We lived in his HIS house under HIS rules. 

I resented this and began to withdraw into myself.  I became as fiercely independent as he was.  And just as armoured.

And when I was finally strong and independent enough to leave him, I did

Funny ... I was drawn to the things that ultimately drove me away ... his independence and his active lifestyle.

Unfortunately I am still encased in that armour and I still worry that I cannot keep up or stay young so I am fearful that I will not be good enough when I meet someone who is independent and athletic.   

I wish I could erase the memories that make me put on the brakes when I meet someone at all like him.

Is there anything that causes you to put on the brakes before you become vulnerable?