Oh, the weather outside is frightful…

I will begin by wishing you a Happy New Year! May you experience peace, joy, and good health in the year to come!

Yes, the last days of 2019 are proving to be quite unpleasant. Yesterday was freezing rain, power failures all around us, but thankfully the power supply at Mist Cottage remained strong. We had plans for the day, but upon looking out the window, instantly changed them, and stayed safe and warm inside the house, because we could. It is nice to have options!

This morning I arose to ice pellets pounding down on the roof, and accumulating. This is different than freezing rain, ice pellets maintain their integrity and collect like snow. The plow went by early this morning. Now it is snowing, heavily. The temperature is just above freezing. There was a short window of calm weather this morning, and we took that opportunity to run to the building centre to purchase additional insulation, and a few bits of needed hardware for the basement project. It was fortunate we went when we did.

Attila has spent his entire Christmas break working on the basement insulation. He has completed the studs and insulation on all but part of the back wall. There are sections that have vapour barrier, and some sections even have painted drywall installed. There is still much to be done, and another load of drywall is soon to be ordered, and more paint will also be needed to complete the project. Attila is enjoying this project, I think mostly because there are no deadlines, no pressing issues dependent on the completion of the project. He does what he can comfortably, and when he wants to he can walk away until inspired to get back to it, which, it turns out, is almost every day since he started in November.

And me, what am I up to? Yesterday I milled flour, which took most of the mid-peak hydro window during the day (11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.). The Christmas baking used up every last little bit of flour that I had on hand. And that was the last of the first 25 kg bag of organic wheat berries. On Boxing Day Attila brought the second 25 kg bag out of the freezer, and yesterday it was thawed and ready for milling. The wheat berries are transferred to and stored in a 7 gallon food grade plastic bucket. The bucket sits in our tiny kitchen, as it is too heavy for me to carry up and down the basement stairs. Someday I would like to have a better place to store the bucket, but we aren’t going to be working on the kitchen in 2020.

The other project that was tackled was vegetable broth. Vegetable scraps are saved by placing them in plastic bags in the freezer. When eight or nine one liter bags accumulate, out comes the steam juicer, and they are transformed into a vitamin and mineral rich broth. Two cups were used immediately to make a Spaghetti dinner in the Instant Pot, and the three remaining cups were frozen in a plastic tub for future use. I am finding that the scraps are providing us with 100% of the vegetable broth we use for cooking meals. Not bad for stuff that is usually thrown in the garbage, or sometimes thrown in a composter.

Worldly

Weather

0°C
Date: 2:48 PM EST Tuesday 31 December 2019
Condition: Light Snow (HA! Heavy snow more like!)
Pressure: 99.9 kPa
Tendency:Falling
Temperature: 0.4°C
Dew point: -0.4°C
Humidity: 95%
Wind: WSW 23 gust 45 km/h
Visibility: 1 km

Quote

“Remember also that each man lives only the present moment:  The rest of time is either spent and gone, or is quite unknown.  It is a very little time which each man lives, and in a small corner of the earth; and the longest surviving fame is but short, and this conveyed through a succession of poor mortals, each presently a-dying; men who neither knew themselves, nor the persons long since dead.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book III, Section 10, in Francis Hutcheson and James Moor (translators), The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (1742).

For me the most significant part of this offering is that “the longest surviving fame is but short”. In a world where we are increasingly completing in a digital world for even a smidgen of interaction with other human beings, where so many people are after that “15 minutes of fame”, it seems sad that the significance of the here and now, and the with-you, has faded so badly. Will the species ever return to primarily face-to-face contact? I wonder.

She ain’t what she used to be…

I love sweet treats. One of my favourites has always been chocolates, particularly on special days, like Christmas. At times, over the years, I have eaten a lot of chocolate sweets! Now, I don’t indulge in them, but for special occasions.

On Christmas Day a box of chocolates sat under the tree. I had one, after a little while another, and so on, and so on, until I had eaten far too many. And I felt pretty good, great in fact. I was well pleased with myself.

I woke up on Boxing Day feeling fine. We went shopping. After walking around in the store for a little while, I began to feel sad, that intensified, then I began to feel bad as well. By the time we entered the second store, I had to curb my tongue, as irritability had also developed. By the time we headed home I had the biggest, baddest, sugar crash of my life. It was a doozy. I felt physically ill. And it did not diminish that day, or during the night. Finally on Friday morning I began to feel a little better, and my state improved steadily thereafter.

Wow, this was a first. I reckon it is all the healthy eating we are doing all the rest of the year. My body can no longer tolerate large influxes of things that are not good for me. This bout was so serious, that when I looked at the little bit of chocolate under the tree this morning, I at first thought, “oh boy”. Then I recoiled, turned, and walked away!

I still have treats. The Panettone is not loaded with sugar, nor are my Mincemeat Squares, or my Gingerbread Cookies. The homemade treats do not cause any adverse reactions. Next holiday season, I am going to stick to my own baking!

On Friday we had a lovely dinner at Terra’s house, and got to see all the beautiful Grandbabies, six of them. All have strong personalities, all of them quite different, all of them interesting and beautiful. They change so much between gatherings! There are two living in Western Canada that we have only met once. We have no contact with their mother, her choice, Attila’s daughter by another mother. I suspect they are as beautiful as they were when we met them, years ago!

Worldly

Weather

FREEZING RAIN WARNING
1°C
Date: 4:11 PM EST Sunday 29 December 2019
Condition: Light Rain
Pressure: 101.8 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 0.7°C
Dew point: -3.9°C
Humidity: 71%
Wind: NE 26 gust 39 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without the benefit of experience.”
Henry Miller
1891 – 1980

Warming Up

The weather is taking a warm turn today, the predicted high temperature will be -5C. It to get even warmer in these few days before Christmas, so it is probable the little bit of snow we have on the ground will melt, and we will have a green Christmas. I now love green Christmases, after living in the north in the bush, where the snow had a definite personality of its own, a personality with a lot of attitude. Green is good.

We spend our Christmas Day with just the two of us, with a few exceptions, and have done since Terra left home in 2001. Our children and grandchildren spend their Christmas Day with the in-laws, as far as we know. At first it was distressing, after spending so many decades sharing a busy Christmas with my children. There is a lot of hype in the world, about Christmas being a happy “family” event. Really though, for tens of thousands and thousands and thousands of people, that is just not the case. And some of us, in spite of the hype, experience wonderful Christmases without a big happy family gathering.

Attila and I accepted reality, and moved on.

Now we enjoy our quiet Christmas Days. All the excitement of childhood has mellowed into a peaceful enjoyment of colourful lights and delicious food. We usually read, watch a few movies, and cook, cook, cook! And I feel peace knowing that the tradition of the warmth of animals, and the kindness of strangers, is alive and flourishing in this world, despite all that is desperately wrong with the present human condition.

It feels funny to write of these things, as I don’t know who is reading. Yes, I do know my Mom and sisters read what is written here, and some of my cherished friends read these words, many I have met here. But there are many who read these scratchings who I do not know of, and I cannot know how these words land in your world. But I do know that, no matter what you may make of this prose, I harbour goodwill towards those who are kind and compassionate.

Worldly

Weather

-12°C
Date: 8:13 AM EST Saturday 21 December 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 103.5 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: -12.4°C
Dew point: -14.5°C
Humidity: 84%
Wind: NE 11 km/h
Wind Chill: -18
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“There is something about the presence of a cat…that seems to take the bite out of being alone.”
Louis J. Camuti
1893 – 1981

“Louis J. Camuti was a New York City cat veterinarian who made housecalls on cats and their people for over sixty years. He was the first veterinarian in the United States to devote his entire practice to cats.””

A Nice Surprise

I began my day feeling a wee bit melancholy, I would have said sad, but that might imply a reason to feel sad, and I don’t have a reason, it is just the way I felt this morning.

This afternoon a friend called me on the telephone, a nice surprise, and we talked for hours. It was an absolute tonic. I’ve known this fellow and his wife for more than 25 years, and the words flow easily between us. A perfect treat.

I contrast this with social media, where one feels lucky if someone clicks a thumbs up on something you have written or shared… or one counts the number of viewings, or comments, as connection of some kind.

A real conversation represents an infinity of upturned thumbs.

It is a cold, brittle, ice sparkling day. Mist Cottage is cozy and warm. The ingredients for tonight’s pizza dough have been carefully measured into the pan of the bread machine, and it has been set in motion. And oh dear, I’ve eaten the last Gingerbread Cookie! Time for another day of baking. Thank goodness tomorrow is Saturday, a whole day of off-peak hydro prices. I plan on giving the oven a real work out!

Worldly

Weather

-9°C
Date: 3:00 PM EST Friday 20 December 2019
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 104.0 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: -9.2°C
Dew point: -15.4°C
Humidity: 61%
Wind: NNW 5 km/h
Wind Chill: -12
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts, therefore guard accordingly; and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue, and reasonable nature.”
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
121 AD – 180 AD

Cold Snap

Overnight the temperature dipped low. The wind chill this morning is -30C. The weather people tell us that this cold spell will be over in a matter of days, time will tell. I am leaving the curtains closed until the sun shines, they help keep the cold at bay.

Attila has built stud walls and insulated the south wall of the basement, and now the east wall as well. Last year he insulated half of the north wall. So just half the north wall, and the west wall, to go.

As a result we are already noticing changes in the house.

I found information on our hydro web site that revealed that the average temperature in November 2018 was -1C, while the average temperature in November 2019 was colder, -4C.

Our hydro usage went down for November 2019 by 60 kWh, clearly a result of the new insulation in the basement. This is pretty good considering the insulation project started mid-November, and went slowly at first. I think we are seeing real results from this basement insulation project!

A reduced electric heating bill is not the only change though. Since the rim joists below the living room were sealed and insulated, the floors are not icy cold this morning! I was not chilled when I walked to the living room in stocking feet, a first for this house, when it is this cold. Also, the draft is gone, just below the new front door in the living room. I remember the fellow who installed the attic insulation told me that sealing and insulating the rim joists in the house would make an amazing difference; how right he was.

Another benefit we have noticed is that the dehumidifier in the basement does not cycle on as often. Cement blocks can wick moisture into the house, so I think the vapour barrier on new stud walls is making a positive difference.

With such noticeable improvements in comfort, Attila is beginning to allude to improving the insulation in the exterior walls of the main floor. Since that will be a very intrusive and complicated project, his enthusiasm is a crucial element in tackling it. However, it isn’t at the top of our list, the next item is the back porch. I am hoping to sneak in a new back door when the porch is improved!

This morning I have been enjoying Gingerbread Cookies for breakfast. What, you say! Cookies for breakfast! They aren’t exactly health food I know, but they are so full of great ingredients, like spices, whole wheat flour, egg, vinegar, and molasses. Each cookie has but one teaspoon of sugar in it (the molasses), because instead of adding the white cane sugar called for in the recipe, I added stevia. Gingerbread Cookies are our thing this Christmas, we can’t get enough of them!

I love the Panettone I’ve been making, but Attila is not a bread lover like I am, cookies though, that is whole other story.

Worldly

Weather

-20°C
Date: 6:00 AM EST Thursday 19 December 2019
Condition: Clear
Pressure: 102.9 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -20.3°C
Dew point: -24.2°C
Humidity: 72%
Wind: WNW 16 km/h
Wind Chill: -30
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?”
Katharine Graham
1917 – 2001