Kitchen Shelf

It is cold again, the temperature having dropped to -19C overnight, and now rising. When it gets that cold I begin to feel my age. This is a new phenomena, and a sign of days to come.

The thermostat (I love the thermostat) is set to 21.5C, it remains set at that temperature year round. But that does not mean there are no variations in the micro-environment of the house. My relationship with that micro-environment is becoming more intimate as time goes by.

When the temperature at night falls as low as -18C, the usual hand crocheted blanket on my bed is not up to protecting my hips from the cold. The only placement for the bed, there are no other options, is against the wall. The walls are poorly insulated. The location of the bed is colder than the temperature on the thermostat. The cold seeps in from the walls, slowly making its way towards the thermostat. Where the cold begins its journey inward at the wall, I lie in slumber. While the blanket provides adequate protection from the cold, there is one exception; my hips. I have little to no fat on my hips, the bones have no layer of protection. In the morning, I experience significant pain in both hips for a few hours after awakening, before movement and ambient warmth in the house alleviate the issue.

The solution is to throw another blanket over the bed at night. After forgetting to do this on the first night of a cold snap, discomfort ensures that the extra blanket finds its way to the bed the next morning.

On Tuesday evening the new kitchen shelf was installed. Hooray!

All day yesterday I was busy in the kitchen, organizing the cupboards, refilling jars, sorting out the most used items that will live on the new shelf. Awkward containers were emptied into convenient mason jars. Newly filled jars of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves now sit within easy reach. Small treasures from the garden, in small mason jars, will no longer be forgotten at the back of a cupboard. Dried chamomile flowers for tea, lavender blooms for flavouring, and coriander seeds pose where the eye can rest. Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder.

The new kitchen shelf, it sits just below the window, and above the table. The small jar of ginger, and the tin of cloves will be used before the contents of the jars. On the right there are three jars without labels, one of bulgur, one of millet, and one of couscous.



Date: 6:00 AM EST Thursday 30 January 2020
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.8 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: -13.2°C
Dew point: -15.8°C
Humidity: 81%
Wind: NE 12 km/h
Wind Chill: -26
Visibility: 24 km


“…humility is the foundation of all learning…”

Richard Wagamese, Indian Horse – words of the Grandmother to the Grandson

Unexpected Opportunity

Our pace has slowed here at Mist Cottage, as winter deepens. It isn’t the cold, because the weather was mild over the weekend, and is mild again today. The eves are dripping, the snow is compacting as it melts, the roads are clear and dry in places, and the skies are gray, as they usually are these days. Of course, the cold weather is not done with us yet, not by any means. We will be well into March before we can regard a cold snap as unusual in any way.

I have been listening to Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. I am only an hour into the novel, and I am pierced by sadness and grief, that humans could ever create social structures that caused so much pain and suffering. But humans do just that, and to that I will never be fully reconciled. I think humans may be the cruelest conscious living beings on planet earth, and no culture that I have ever read about, or been exposed to, is an exception. They all harbour their own sad stories.

I am also now listening to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and have just been introduced to Mrs. Benet, and her obtuse husband, Mr. Benet.

What a contrast in worlds between the novels I am listening to. On one side of the world, and closer to our own time, there is great suffering in the underbelly of an unbalanced socal system. On the other side of the world, there is the struggle with the rigid artifice of the class system, on the peaks of an unbalanced social system. And all of it rings true, the descriptions of the human condition, the lows and the highs, and everything in between.

Another world wide alert about a virus is in the news. This time it is the Wuhan Coronavirus. One hopes that the powers that be will be successful in containing the spread of this virus, which has already killed many people, and has potential to kill even more. In my time there have been world wide threats posed by SARS and MERS and Ebola, and there may be others that I was not aware of at the time, the news of which didn’t penetrate into my everyday life. It seems greater mobility of people and things bring greater risks.

On the weekend I baked Squash Chocolate Chip muffins for snacks. I experimented with a sweetener consisting of stevia and erythritol. I’ve used other granulated sugar substitutes, and I am happy to report that this combination of sweeteners yielded great results. This sweetener might even have some health benefits. Certainly, it is unlikely that it won’t be any worse for me than sugar. I’ve looked at other stevia mixes, usually using maltodextrin or xylitol, and decided erythritol seems the least likely to be harmful. The stevia/erythritol combo is a lot more expensive than the other blends with stevia, and it is more difficult to find. The muffins are a great success. I had one for breakfast this morning and enjoyed it very much.

Today I am busy milling flour. It takes me quite a while, because I mill a little over two gallons of flour, and let the mill cool completely between sessions. I mill the flour in four sessions, producing a half a gallon of flour at once. I measure in gallons because my glass canister jars are one gallon jars.

And last, but not least for today, is our Christmas Tree. I think I mentioned that it was in very good condition, not losing needles as all of our previous real Christmas Trees have done. Well, it has gone one step further. It is growing new needles, there are buds emerging all over the tree. If it keeps up like this we will have try planting it in the yard come spring. In the meantime, I think we will take this unexpected opportunity to remove the Christmas Ornaments, leave the lights on it, and decorate it with Valentines, then later replace those with Shamrocks. This is a lot of fun!



Date: 12:00 PM EST Monday 27 January 2020
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.5 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 2.0°C
Dew point: -1.4°C
Humidity: 78%
Wind: WNW 17 km/h
Visibility: 24 km


“Age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
1807 – 1882


Currently I am listening to an audio book, Sense and Sensibility, written by Jane Austen. This activity is bringing me much enjoyment. I have read the story at least twice in the past, and watched it performed in films. Listening to the story read aloud though, has highlighted aspects of the novel that strike me anew. Austen’s use of irony seems more pervasive in the spoken word, as it highlights the displeasure of unpleasing company and conversation. For instance, at present my favourite bit of prose from the novel is:

“pleased to be free herself from the persecution of Lucy’s friendship”
Austen, Jane, Sense and Sensibility, page 268

How nuanced and layered are the feelings and situations represented in that simple phrase, “persecution of friendship”. How often over the years have I been thrust together with someone feigning friendship, while expressing confidences that belied the conviction. Even in Austen’s world, sincerity, kindness, and integrity are qualities that deserve merit. The necessity of networking in the professional world mirrors the rigours of social conduct in Austen’s portrayal of upper class social circles.

Occasionally, while listening to the story, I pause, to watch a Bluejay in the tree outside the window, observe the gradations of gray in the sky, listen to the ticking of the clock, and feel gratitude for what I have.

Well, enough of all this reverie! The day is at hand.

During the winter months, life follows a slower rhythm. The kitchen, the center of all food preservation projects, is largely retired from that duty. Baking and meal preparation are allowed exclusive use of the facility. Foods that were canned, dehydrated, fermented, and frozen for future use, are now fulfilling their purpose, and where once supplies accumulated, they are now being slowly diminished.

I have become accustomed to the new congestion of neighbours due to the influx of residents in the rental development. The construction has ceased for the winter month. The heavy equipment, truck loads of materials such as gravel, and the resounding sounds of workers and their music have ceased for the season.

We continue to enjoy very good health here at Mist Cottage, with much gratitude. We live in peaceful and respectful coexistence. The world around us, according to the pundits of communication, is going to hell in a hand basket… it seems we are now living in the dreaded “interesting times””. But all around us, what I see is ordinary people, leading ordinary lives, going about their daily business; and I am grateful for that.

Today I am writing in a text editor, than directly into my blog entry. I notice that the two software writing venues feel quite different from each other. The text editor feels calmer, more private, more confidential, more intimate. In part I think that is because I am not writing to a remote location, a hard drive hundreds and hundreds of miles away. The words written via either venue will eventually be posted on this blog, into the wild digital jungle, their destinations are one and the same, but their origins are subtlety different.

Today’s activities will include preparing salad dressing for myself. There is too much sodium and sugar in commercial salad dressings, and too many chemicals. Presently I am preparing my salad dressing using 1/4 cup of liquid from my own canned Cowboy Candy, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of chopped jalapeño peppers from the Cowboy Candy, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of onion flakes, and teaspoon of granulated garlic.

Pizza is the favoured Friday-Night-At-Last celebration dinner. The 100% dough is made in the bread machine, the pizza is baked in the oven. Usually I prepare the dough, and when it is ready on the pizza pan, Attila takes over, adds the toppings, and pops it into the oven. It is a “low sodium” pizza, meaning that my half has trimmed the sodium as much as possible, while retaining some semblance of an actual pizza. In reality, the portion I eat at a meal contains almost my daily quote of sodium, so it isn’t really a slow sodium dish. On days when pizza is being prepared in the kitchen, breakfast, lunch, and snacks are all calculated to contain almost no sodium. For instance, lunch today will consist of homemade vegetable beef soup, to which no salt has been added, and no ingredients containing sodium have been added. Occasionally I take this approach, saving up my allotted mg of sodium for a special meal that is higher in sodium, but still keeps me under my daily limit.

Some of the ingredients for my homemade Vegetable Beef Soup.
Bowls: spices and herbs; 1/3 lb of ground beef; frozen homemade vegetable broth
Other: 2 cups filtered water; frozen garden beans; carrots; onions; celery; potatoes;, garlic; garden canned tomatoes; olive oil.
Of course, this was cooked in the Instant Pot!
Note: The jar of canned tomatoes is the last one canned from our garden tomatoes in the summer of 2018. That summer Attila grew black tomatoes, so the colour of the soup made with them was rather unexpected and interesting.

Our Christmas Tree still adorns the living room, it is a source of constant cheer. It receives water every day, very few needles have fallen, and there are small buds at the end of many of the branches. It is making itself at home in the living room. The real tree is usually left up until the end of January, but this year I am considering leaving it to enjoy our company until the end of February, perhaps even until the first day of spring.

Attila continues to pluck away at the basement insulation project. During the recent cold snap, the project was put on hold, as opening and closing the door to the unheated garage cooled the interior of the building, so activity was minimized. At the moment he is painting the drywall that has been installed over the last week.

The insulation project has been very worthwhile. The temperature in the basement continues to remain around 12C (54F), which is almost 7C degrees warmer than it was last winter. This significant improvement translates into warmer floors on the main floor of the house, more comfort when performing tasks in the basement, and lower heating bills. It has also reduced the humidity in the basement, and the amount of dust in the house.

Ah, the sun just peaked out from behind the clouds, and the sunbeam is reminding me to eat a late breakfast! Off I go then, to rummage around in the kitchen, looking for something low-sodium to enjoy.



Date: 10:00 AM EST Friday 24 January 2020
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.7 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -0.6°C
Dew point: -7.1°C
Humidity: 62%
Wind: NE 18 km/h
Wind Chill: -6
Visibility: 24 km


“Never try to reason the prejudice out of a man. It was not reasoned into him, and cannot be reasoned out.”
Sydney Smith
1771 – 1845

Whistle While You Work

It seems we are just getting started with the really cold weather. The prediction for tonight’s overnight low is -20C, with a windchill of -24C. When we lived at the Country House, we would not have considered this extremely cold, it had to dip to -30C or colder for that. But here at Mist Cottage -20C is very cold indeed.

The colder weather means that our heating has switched to the oil furnace, which is a very dry heat. The humidity in the house is dropping steadily, and measures are being taken in an attempt to keep it above 30% relative humidity. Clean wet laundry is being washed in small loads, and hung on racks in the living room, which helps. Trays of water are placed in front of each heating vent; they empty quickly. Bath water is left in the tub for a day, to maximize evaporation.

On Saturday, into Sunday, we received a lot of snow. Nothing like the amount that our Atlantic provinces have just experienced, where Newfoundland declared a state of emergency, but a lot of snow relative to this area. Attila got it all shoveled into banks.

By late Sunday morning I was feeling sufficiently recovered, from the bug I have picked up, to help with the snow removal project by brushing the snow off of the vehicles. I was out there for almost an hour, snow brush in hand. It was very cold and I stayed out too long, my fingers suffered. Not since I was a child have my fingers suffered the cold so severely, they stung for about 15 minutes after I came back in the house. At first I was concerned that I might have frostbite, but the fingers were pink and healthy looking, thank goodness. But my oh my, did they sting as they slowly warmed.

I took it easy late last week and through the weekend, but I did manage to get a few tasks completed. I baked muffins for Attila’s lunches. I also baked another loaf of Panettone, this time adding flax seed and substituting a half cup of rolled oats for the some of the whole wheat flour.. It tastes wonderful, and the texture is crumblier. I will be experimenting with this recipe to see if I can add more ingredients such as seeds, and perhaps some nuts. Eventually the recipe will morph into a healthier and healthier loaf.

Attila had the last load of drywall delivered on Saturday morning, before the snow storm hit. He got it safely stowed away in the garage, and has been installing a few sheets. The frigid weather has slowed his progress.

Today I was going to have a small skin biopsy, not thought to be a serious health risk, but a thing that needed to be done. This is a medical facility that has my records, and that I have visited regularly for several years. But my regular health care person has moved on to other things, and I am now assigned to a new health care person. So we are starting from scratch. As a result, due to my anaphylaxis, I was unable to get the biopsy today, and will have to push to get it at a future date, without freezing. The anaphylaxis adds an incredible level of complication to otherwise routine health care procedures.

Life can be hard work sometimes, and luckily during my formative years I received an excellent tip from an indirect source, “Whistle While You Work“. Puckering up now!



Date: 5:00 AM EST Monday 20 January 2020
Condition: Not observed
Pressure: 103.1 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -16.6°C
Wind: WNW 7 km/h
Wind Chill: -22


“The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.”
Bertrand Russell
1872 – 1970

Winter Routines

My photo of our Poinsettia does not do the colour justice. It certainly adds a richness of colour to the living room.

I am having a quiet, restful day today. The sky is gray and overcast, as it almost always is these days, so I have the lamp lit beside my chair, to add a bit of cheer. My crochet project is waiting for my fingers to cease tapping here, to resume the rhythm of the yarn. The tidied kitchen sits at the ready for the next frenzy of activity, which I will call lunch. The computer is playing peaceful piano music, a bit sombre really for a gray day, but calming. Wistful thoughts touch me occasionally, hoping that those who are experiencing difficult times will find comfort and peace.

So far this winter we have only experienced two short bouts of frigid weather, enjoying relatively mild weather for the most part. Tomorrow night though, another cold snap is predicted, with the night time low of -15C, and even colder nights to come. This will put the unheated basement insulation to the test! So far the basement temperature is holding at 12C (54F), but the weather has been mostly mild. We were living in a house for a few months that only reached a high of 5C (41F), before the chimneys for our heating system were installed at the country house, and we survived nicely, but not exactly comfortably. Life takes us through all kinds of experiences.

This winter is a time of rest here at Mist Cottage. Nothing much of anything going on, a bit of reading, a bit of crocheting, a bit of milling and baking, a bit of cooking, a bit of walking on the elliptical machine, all very cozy.

Attila has been putting up the last of the vapour barrier in the basement, and taping the seams. Slowly but surely the job is getting done. The project is relatively stress free for him, as there is no deadline for completion, it will get done when it gets done. Every so often he will call me down to view the progress, and take pictures, but that is my only involvement.

Our water meter has been replaced, fingers crossed it isn’t a dud, and our water bill does not skyrocket. I am keeping an eye on it. I tested it for accuracy and it seems to be reading accurately. Time will tell.

I am coming down with something, sneezing up a storm! Attila hears me from wherever he is in the house. Every time I sneeze, he calls “bless you”; from the basement, from the kitchen, from wherever he happens to be. In aid of an ounce of prevention, I decided this morning to add a teaspoon of blackstrap molasses to my morning ACV beverage (1 cup water, 1 tablespoon ACV, 2 drops liquid stevia). I replaced the stevia with 1 teaspoon of molasses. No, I do not care for it, so tomorrow I will go back to my usual routine and I will either take a teaspoon of molasses raw, or bake gingerbread cookies. So far I am favouring the cookies.



Date: 7:00 AM EST Wednesday 15 January 2020
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 102.2 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 0.3°C
Dew point: -1.2°C
Humidity: 90%
Wind: WSW 7 km/h
Visibility: 24 km


“If you can’t fix it, you don’t own it.”
Kyle Wiens