Spectacularly Unspectacular

Easter weekend was very kind to us this year. We decided to stay home and work on the yard and house, because in a few short weeks we won’t be spending our weekends at home, we will be at the Rideau Camp.

On Friday, the day Attila had off work, he raked the entire yard, and trimmed a lot of the dead organic matter from last winter. I removed sheets of plastic that had wintered in bunched up balls under the back deck, hideous! One of them had been sprayed by a Tom Cat, so you can imagine the smell. It was bagged, and along with the yard waste and a large bag of garbage that had hung around all winter, it was loaded into Tank for a trip to the dump.

Friday we got word that Luna and Janus and Imp and Elf and Tink were going to make a flying visit to the area to see all of us before their flight to Amsterdam. They will be living in Amsterdam for three months, the whole family. This news inspired me to undertake spring cleaning. After all, two crawling babies and three active children need a clean space to cavort in. They all arrived late in the afternoon on Sunday, and stayed for an hour or so. Then they headed off to Terra’s house, which is very large, to spend the night.

It was a lovely visit. When Tink asked me to read her a story, it was the perfect opportunity to read to all my Grandbabies one of the books I bought with them in mind. The story we read together is called “The Night You Were Born”, by Nancy Tillman. I love this book because it celebrates every new life, not within the family context, but within the context of the universe, of being a living entity on planet earth. This book welcomes all new human life, not just those who are lucky enough to have a family to welcome them into the world, it is very inclusive. And so there I sat, reading those beautiful words to those bright young souls, that told them the story of how precious they are in the universe. Imp and Tink sat on my left, Elf sat on my right, little Sunny sat on my lap, and Sky listened from the other room, happily ensconced on his Grandpa’s lap. Elf and Tink listened with bright eyes, Imp sometimes gazed off into the distance, as she is known to be introspective at times, Sunny in her frilly dress was intent upon touching the pages, perhaps having a little taste, and Sky could be heard commenting in his own language as his Grandpa held him. How sweet is was when after reading this part of the story,

“So whenever you doubt just how special you are
and wonder who loves you, how much and how far,
listen for geese honking high in the sky.
(They’re singing a song to remember you by.)
Or notice the bears asleep at the zoo.
(It’s because they’ve been dancing all night for you!)
Or drift off to sleep to the sound of the wind.
(Listen closely… it’s whispering your name again!)

we whispered each child’s name. It felt like my brother, my Granny and Grandpa, and my Aunts, were crowded around us and silently whispering their love into those beautiful names.

Monday morning saw Attila off to work, and me driving Tank to visit Terra’s house, for a shared breakfast with my daughters and their families. I enjoyed listening to them talk amongst themselves, and enjoyed playing with the Grandbabies, all of them. The Grandbabies enjoyed an Easter Egg hunt out of doors, filling their Easter Baskets with the treats they found scattered and hidden all over the yard. The morning flew past, and before I knew it, it was time to say goodbye. We will not see Luna, Janus, Imp, Elf, and Tink for quite a while, today they catch their flight to Amsterdam, where they will live for the next three months before returning to Ontario. They are all very excited to be going on such an adventure. Terra and Lares and Sunny and Sky were preparing to attend an Easter Monday family get together at Lares’ uncle’s home.

Today was a day of comparative leisure. I baked Squash Muffins. I washed a load of laundry and hung it outside on the line to dry. I worked on my book. I worked on my crochet project, a cotton cover for my Obus seat. Attila arrived home and we enjoyed a dinner consisting of chicken, potatoes, carrots, and green and yellow beans. Because it is light later into the evening, Attila is out in the yard levelling a flower box that had settled crookedly over the winter. I have cleaned the kitchen, and now written this entry.

We have had a spectacularly unspectacular Easter break.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

10°C
Date: 6:00 PM EDT Tuesday 18 April 2017
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.9 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 10.1°C
Dew point: -3.9°C
Humidity: 37%
Wind: SSE 7 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“For never before in story or rhyme
(no even once upon a time)
has the world ever known a you, my friend,
and it never will, not ever again…”
from On The Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman

Projects Of My Own

Saturday, September 13, 2014

We are still at the little house in the city.

Great fun in the kitchen over the last few days! I have blanched and frozen most of the celery given to us by Terra and Lares, and dried and powdered about 250 ml of dried celery leaves for flavouring in soups and stews. I have pressure cooked the beets, which we enjoyed the whole day, eating them as a mid-morning snack, and as a side dish with every meal of the day. I like them with hot sweet mustard. What a treat!

The next day I reread the manual for the All American pressure canner, and began the prep work for my very first foray into pressure canning. On this vacation I brought along three types of dried beans, kidney, navy, and pinto beans. I also brought along the video I found online, which outlines how to can chili beans in a pressure canner, using dry beans. All in all, by the time I was ready to put my hand to chopping vegetables, washing canning jars and setting up the pressure canner, it was already well past 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon.

Finally, at around 3:30 p.m. I was ready to lower my bean, vegetable, spice, and water filled jars into the canner, to begin the canning process.

I do not think I have tackled many projects with as much reading of manuals, watching of tutorials, and thinking, thinking, thinking about what I was going to do, and how I was going to do it.

And of course, as soon as I got the pressure canner going, I was sure I hadn’t set it up properly, that it would run dry on me, that the jars would break, that the range couldn’t handle the load…

Let me just say that it was a very, very tense 120 minutes, from the time I turned on the heat, until I turned it off again. I sat in the kitchen and watched that pressure canner like there was no tomorrow. I wondered that steam occasionally came from the rim rather than out the weighted release valve. I wondered if the roiling sounds inside the canner meant the jars were bursting. I wondered if it mattered that the weight did not rattle three times a minute if the canning process was compromised, even though the gage read a steady pressure. I wondered why the weight rattled almost constantly when I turned up the heat a smidgin. I just wondered about the whole thing, from beginning to end. I had a sore neck and a tension headache by the time I turned off the heat!

What I found out was that I had plenty of water left in the canner at the end of the process, and it would not have run dry, even if the weight had rattled a lot more than it did. The canner lost a surprisingly small amount of water! I found out that I really had needed to add vinegar to the water before closing up the canner, because the canning jars came out coated with minerals. I found out that the canning was successful, 100% successful, as every jar pinged as it sealed. I watched the contents of the jars “boil” for almost half an hour after I removed the jars from the canner.

And best of all… I found out that Attila LOVES the beans!

The next time I try pressure canning I won’t be nearly so nervous about it.

We managed to get out to Terra and Lares house this past week, and had a wonderful time, sitting on the verandah chatting, watching and occasionally helping Lares with the last wall of siding on the house, sharing a wonderful meal of hamburgers, and corn and potatoes that Terra picked in the garden just before putting them into the pot to cook. We ended the evening by watching a movie, Bad Words, which I really enjoyed.

Yesterday evening Terra and Lares came to ours for dinner, which was “holiday food”, french fries and chicken nuggets. Not really that bad considering we have been out of cooking mode for the entire holiday due to the window replacement project in the kitchen and dining room.

One of the things I love about our time at the little house in the city is being able to see Terra and Lares with some frequency.

It was Tink’s birthday last week, her fifth, so we called her using Skype. She is such a character. She told us she was having “frozen cupcakes” for her birthday. Attila and I both thought, “whatever turns your crank!” Luna explained to us later that “frozen” was a movie, and the cupcakes were part of the movie themed birthday party. We all had a good laugh about the frozen cupcakes.

Yesterday Attila spent the entire day just puttering. He touched up the paint on the exterior of the house, where it had peeled, apparently not quite dry when the we painted the house a few years ago. He replaced bits of rotting siding on the garage, and painted them. He cut and painted trim.

Today I decided that this year I am making chili sauce. I like my homemade chili sauce, and have found no affordable substitutes. We do buy a commercial chili sauce, but it is almost $5 a jar, and is thickened with a thickener, it tastes and feels like cornstarch to me, which isn’t real chili sauce as far as I am concerned.

I talked to Terra about a possible source for a half bushel of tomatoes, she did not know of one. Then I poked around the internet, searching, searching, searching. I found a farm just 5 km out of town, that sells all kinds of fall vegetables, including tomatoes. So I called ahead, then headed out to the farm for tomatoes. Goodness I had a good time. There were many kinds of squash, I bought three different varieties. There were freshly dug potatoes, I bought two baskets. There were hot peppers, I bought them all. There were green peppers, I bought three. I came home with a trunk full of vegetables!

Then I headed off to the hardware store and purchased another dozen 1L canning jars. I always buy North American made canning jars. In Canada that means BERNARDIN, a company I trust. Canadian Tire had another brand of canning jars, that I don’t think are made in North America. I won’t buy them. I will not buy products made outside of North America unless I have no other options. Today I had options, I bought Bernardin.

Another project I tackled after the kitchen chaos cleared, were curtains for the kitchen window. I spent an entire day sewing a set of simple kitchen curtains for the new kitchen window, installing the curtain hardware, and hanging the curtains. Again, I love them!

I have the same material to make new curtains for the dining room windows, but will tackle that project when I am visiting the little house in the city by myself. Then I will be able to pace myself, sewing over the course of a few days, instead of soldiering on and pushing the project through in one day, as I did with the kitchen window curtain.

Our evening began when Terra and Lares dropped by with another bunch of home grown celery. I had asked her earlier in the day if they had any more that they were wanting to give away. I need this bunch of celery for my chili sauce! After they left Attila and I got down to removing all the leaves, washing them, spreading them on cookie sheets, and drying them for future use as flavouring.

It was cold and raining today, not at all pleasant out there! We were warm enough in the house though, our little bit of cooking for lunch and dinner kept the house pleasantly warm.

Attila had his meltdown today, the last full day of our renovation vacation. He was determined to install the bathroom baseboard, but ran into a few issues caused by the uneven walls and floor in this old house. He felt very frustrated. Time to end the projects for this visit!!! I pointed out that he had accomplished an incredible number of projects with great success. An evening of fun was in order. So we got out the popcorn maker, found a BBC drama to watch on youtube, and sat ourselves down for a few hours of mindless entertainment.

Here is the dining room, new windows and table in place. The curtains are shower curtains, which are not ideal, but they work. Actually they work very, very well, with shower curtain hooks on the curtain rod the opening and closing of the curtains is easy indeed. The material for the new curtains is sitting in the living room beside the sewing machine, just waiting for my attention!
DiningroomEndOfRenoVac2014

And there ends our two weeks of renovation vacation, our fifth year of spending our entire vacation time renovating our little house in the city. I guess that would be a total of about ten weeks of renovating, not a lot of time, as renovations go. We usually have a good time and are happy in our work, just not every day, ahem, and the results are so very satisfying!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

10°C
Date: 8:00 PM EDT Saturday 13 September 2014
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.2 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 9.6°C
Dewpoint: 7.1°C
Humidity: 84%
Wind: WNW 13 km/h

Quote

“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.”
John Wilmot

I found this quote very amusing! I raised my girls as a single mother, and had to deal with childless authority figures in the academy while studying for my Honours BA, MA and PhD. I have to say, those childless, intellectual “experts” on childrearing were a baneful bunch! It is little wonder that I have theories about theories!

Path to the Outhouse

On the weekend, Harriet and Ariel cut the grass at Granny and Grandpa’s house. It is a big job! They cut a path to the outhouse, just for me! Harriet has a magnificent heavy-duty, self-propelling lawn mower, which makes the job viable, just. I could not manage the job with the bottom-of-the-line, wobbly little push mower that we own. With the dead Elm gone, the garden cleared of weeds and brambles, and the grass cut, the place looks wonderful. Next on our list for Granny and Grandpa’s house is to repair the support beam for the store porch. The wood was sound, but the winter was severe, and the snow coming off the roof snapped the support beam. We do not have a vehicle that will transport the needed timber, but Attila thinks he can make do with a log from one of our camp’s downed trees, and some short lumber that will fit into our car. This fall Attila will do some pruning on the ornamental bushes around the place, just to spruce it up a bit. This is not a good time of year for pruning.

Granny and Grandpa’s house needs a new roof, which is beyond our time and resources; we do not own the building. Without a new roof working on the interior of the house is futile.

At the camp our plans are to continue felling trees, and to burn the brush created in clearing the lot. Short and sweet to write, long and sweaty to accomplish!

In the meantime, we continue to keep our country house ready for prospective buyers. I do not really like keeping it “showroom” clean. Rushing to get everything shipshape before leaving for work in the morning is a pain! Attila is a little behind with the lawn mowing, but at least we are here most evenings, so there will be an opportunity to get it done quickly if we get a call from the realtor. Our yard has very little grass, and is mostly native natural ground cover, which we keep mowed. Actually, the new reality of insect repellent clothing might give me an opportunity to do a little bit of light yard work myself! I find the push lawn mower is too difficult for me to manage, so Attila will have to do that job.

We will not be doing any major renovations at the little house in the city this summer. One issue is that all of our money, and then some, was spent on the driveway at the camp, the other is that there are a lot of little jobs to complete at the little house in the city, which will not cost a lot of money. We need to stain the front steps that Attila constructed last autumn, and finish the trim in the bathroom and kitchen. Renovation at the little house in the city does not seem as urgent now, since the kitchen and bathroom renovations are completed. We are very comfortable there!

These are the daylilies we planted early in the spring, on one side of the front step, at the little house in the city.
Daylilliesfrontstep
These are the hostas we planted early in teh spring, on the other side of the front step, at the little house in teh city.
Hostafronstep

We are looking forward to our next trip to the little house in the city, to see how our garden has managed without us! There has been adequate rain, so we are hoping that it is thriving. If it is, so will have been the lawn! So our next visit will again entail cutting the lawn and tending the yard. The spring is the busiest season for tending the yard, as the grass does not grow as quickly in the summer, and very little in the autumn.

Terra and Lares have done a great deal of landscaping around their house, since we last visited. They purchased a riding lawn mower, so the that Terra could do the job easily. I am looking forward to seeing the results of all their hard work. Last I spoke with them, they were still waiting for back-ordered materials to finish the siding on the front of the house. I hope their materials arrived!

Luna posted a photo of Tink at her dance recital. We have not seen them since Christmas, at Terra’s house. I trust that no news is good news; best to be pragmatic.

The weather is beautiful again today. Mist is sleeping peacefully on the sofa, as the birds just outside our window serenade her. Mist is deaf. The birds do not know this.

I have no particular plans for the day. Of course there are the usual tasks, bed making, dish washing, cooking, sweeping, and such.

Tomorrow is another work day, my last scheduled work. It entails two hours of driving (at my own expense) and seven hours of work. The price of fuel is now so high that working at these locations has become untenable. Attila is urging me to hang up the towel, as the job is very stressful, entails a great deal of responsibility, is intrusive in our personal life, is increasingly complicated, and the returns are ever decreasing. There is little to no hope of advancement, or regular hours, contrary to what I was led to believe at hiring. The point at which the costs of transportation become greater than the pay cheque are fast approaching. It is a little unnerving, the thought of having no employment whatsoever, and no pension to speak of. But really, I am nearly in that position with this on-call job, so bowing out would merely remove the stress. The money I manage to make after travel expenses is infinitesimal. I think it is time to follow Attila’s advice.

The retirement years will not be golden for me, in a financial sense. Most younger people today will find themselves in the same predicament, in due course. It wasn’t that I didn’t save for my old age, I did, carefully and meticulously; it was that I had to spend my retirement savings to support my children, as a single parent with no safety net. There was nothing left when the job was done.

Although I do not feel bitter about this, I will not say that I feel happy about it either! Still, this allows us the opportunity to know, without any doubt whatsoever, that any attention we receive from our children is based purely on their affection for us; completely free of the fetters of dollars, cents, and financial assistance.

“Always look on the bright side of life,” as Brian would say.

Good old Brian. I can’t imagine life without Brian.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

20°C
Date: 9:00 AM EDT Monday 23 June 2014
Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 19.6°C
Dewpoint: 9.8°C
Humidity: 53%
Wind: SSE 13 km/h

Quote

“If you really want something, and really work hard, and take advantage of opportunities, and never give up, you will find a way.”
Jane Goodall
1934-

[I do not agree at all! I think that if you really want something, and really work hard, and take advantage of opportunities, and never give up, you have a chance to find a way. But only a chance; it isn’t a guarantee, it isn’t a certainty, that you will find a way. There is no magic bullet, no sure-fire formula. If you are one of the fortunate ones that does find a way as a result of your wanting and doing, it doesn’t mean that your experience is a universal truth. You didn’t necessarily want, or work any harder than others, who met with less spectacular results. The experience of personal success cannot be extrapolated into a magic formula. It is not true that if it “worked for me”, it will “work for you.” Life is too random for that. Lots of people, possibly millions of people, want, work hard, take advantage of opportunities, never give up… and do not find a way. Not finding a way, after all of that effort, may be the norm, and the finding of the way the shining and desirable rare event, enjoyed by few, sought by many. I will say though, that it is my experience that there are some wonderful things to be discovered along the way when you really want something, and really work hard, and take advantage of opportunities, and never give up… it is worth doing!]