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!

Worldly

Weather

-17°C
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

Quote

“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.

Worldly

Weather

0°C
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

Quote

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

Forest Floor Muffins

The ice storm arrived here after midnight, so we awoke to a sparkling world. The sparkle was brief though, because very soon the snow began to fall, making everything white, and surprisingly, not all that slippery. We did not lose power at any point. Today was another gray day.

Having baked bread last weekend, there was no need to do it again this weekend. Actually, there were no plans to bake today. But mid-afternoon I was looking for a snack and couldn’t settle on anything. So I made muffins, a go-to recipe. I don’t read the recipe anymore, I just use this recipe’s base ingredients, and then mix and match the rest of the ingredients.

The base ingredients are divided into two categories, dry and wet. Extras are usually added to the basic dry ingredients, but also sometimes to the wet.

The dry ingredients in my base recipes are:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup of quick cooking oats
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder (aluminum free)
  • 4 tablespoons of brown sugar

The wet ingredients, in a two cup measuring up are:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • liquid to make ABOUT 1 1/2 to 2 cups (milk, applesauce, pureed pumpkin, pureed any fruit).
    NOTE: the liquid is the tricky bit in my muffin baking. When I add a cup of applesauce or pumpkin puree to the liquid measure, the mixture is quite thick, and needs a bit more thin liquid (like milk) to moisten the batter adequately. And muffins can easily be over stirred, so getting the liquid to dry ratio just right, without stirring too much can be tricky.

The rest of the ingredients are discretionary. My mixing and matching was ambitious today. To my muffins I added: chopped walnuts; chocolate chips; shredded coconut; roasted sunflower seeds; flax seeds; raisins; and applesauce. When describing my choices to Attila, he laughed and called the muffins, Forest Floor Muffins. He figures my choice of ingredients was the equivalent of going for a walk in the forest and picking up whatever interesting things I could find on the ground, then throwing them into a recipe. The process was a bit like that, I have to admit. The muffins are delicious.

I use the basic dry and wet ingredient measurements to make all my muffins. I end up with low-sodium, low-sugar muffins that taste good to us. I can vary the recipe depending on what is on hand, or in season. Currently Attila favours Cranberry Chocolate Chip Muffins for his lunches. I mix a cup of whole fresh or thawed cranberries into the dry ingredients just before adding the wet ingredients, AND I add a few drops of liquid stevia to the wet ingredients, because the cranberries demand it.

Attila spent the weekend making soup for weekday snacks, and applying vapour barrier on the newly insulated walls in the basement. He is down to working on the fiddly bits of vapour barriers, behind pipes, the furnace, and the hot water heater. I snuck in a mention of my new kitchen shelf today, providing him with the height and width specifications that I have decided on. Fingers crossed for that project!

So not exactly a busy day, not exactly an exciting day (excitement is highly overrated), but certainly a pleasant day.

Worldly

Weather

-7°C (we are getting down into oil furnace temperatures!)
Date: 8:00 PM EST Sunday 12 January 2020
Condition: Light Snow
Pressure: 103.3 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -7.1°C
Dew point: -9.7°C
Humidity: 82%
Wind: NE 8 km/h
Wind Chill: -11
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“What is important is to keep learning, to enjoy challenge, and to tolerate ambiguity. In the end there are no certain answers.”
Martina Horner

Settling Dust

After the flurry of holiday season, the dust is once more drifting down and settling around life and Mist Cottage.

Only seven weeks left until March arrives, with its promise of a new season to come, and the lengthening days. March is my least favourite month, two of the people I adored in life passed in the month of March, so that it hasn’t been the same since 1976.

It has been a busy week for me. I was out and about all through the beginning of the week, taking care of shopping and errands. A quick visit to the bulk food store was overdue, to pick up things not reasonably available at the local supermarket, such as buttermilk powder and rubbed marjoram. Garbage tags were running low, time to stock up on those, which entailed a dedicated trip to the municipal offices. I snagged a free 2020 calendar while I was there. A host of little things to get done were on my list, which had lengthened shockingly over the last few months!

At home bills were paid, and a slow return to kitchen organization was initiated. The first thing on the kitchen list was repackaging some of the save-it-because-you-might-need-it items. The ground egg shells were repackaged from a glass jar to a plastic container with a shaker lid. The cherry pits, cleaned, dried, and stored in a glass jar, were repackaged in a clear plastic recycled peanut butter jar. There are at least a dozen small mason jars with small bits of things like powdered kale, and chamomile flowers, that need to be organized. To this end I’ve taken measurements and now have a set of requirements for a kitchen shelf, to be built and installed by Attila. I have my fingers crossed he will take a brief break from the basement insulation job to build this shelf. A shelf would allow me to move all these necessary jars off the kitchen table, so we can sit there to eat again!

The crochet blanket being made for Attila to use of an evening while relaxing on the sofa, is back in hand. I started it last winter, and I hope to finish it this winter… slow but sure.

I have noticed in the last year or so that I have been losing a lot of hair! My health is good. I wonder, could I have been exposed to some sort of environmental poisoning, all sorts of things will cause hair loss; arsenic, mercury, bismuth, lithium, thallium, cadmium, and gold are poisonous. I will be keeping an eye out for possible exposures. It might be old age of course, but none of the women in my family who have aged have had this issue, so it is not hereditary. Mom has a beautiful head of hair, so did my Granny, and my paternal Grandmother. In the meantime I am supplementing my diet with biotin and collagen to see if that makes a difference. I am thinking about being tested for levels of the usual suspects, just to eliminate that line of exploration.

I would really like to get my hair trimmed, it is getting long (and thinner) and I would like it shoulder length. The local style shops are too pricey for me, over $60 for a simple cut, and they expect a generous tip, or there will be unpleasantness. The walk-in cut-and-go places are a quarter of the price, they don’t expect tips, but they are not close by, so that a visit has to wait for an alignment of opportunities; I have to get there during operating hours. Oh how I wish I could do this job myself! Hair styling is not something Attila is ever going to do willingly, and I don’t want the job done under duress, so it is me or the hairdresser. Hair trimming has always been an issue, it stretches limited resources, and yet it needs to happen, at least occasionally.

I have also been thinking about fermented food. Sauerkraut continues to be a big success story at our house, it is delicious, and easy to make. But it is very high in sodium, so it really isn’t a good idea for me to rely on it for my intake of fermented food. What to do? Attila suggested yogurt, and so I will be gearing up to give that a try. It can be made in the Instant Pot, so all I need to find is an unsweetened, unpasteurized yogurt to use as a starter. I won’t be using the cold start recipes, that call for ultra-filtered milk ($$$). I want to use ordinary milk, and that will require a few extra steps, as the milk must be scalded and cooled before use. I am not sure when I will be getting started on that, but it is the next project I want to tackle. There is no lactose in yogurt, even if it is prepared with regular milk.

The weather, until last night, has been very mild. We have had snowfall, and accumulation, but each time it has accumulated, it has subsequently melted, so that the landscape is brown and black and gray. And almost every day has been cloudy, except yesterday, which was brilliantly sunny.

Our little street continues to be very busy, with vehicle traffic and pedestrians. Since there are no sidewalks, the vehicles and the pedestrians must share the pavement, which is often narrowed with cars parked on both sides of the road. We are becoming accustomed to this congestion. It is quite a transformation from the little dead end street we first knew, where our neighbours were all known, because there weren’t that many of us.

Since the temperature fell to below -15C last night, I was curious to see how cold it got in the basement. After arising this morning, I made my way down the stairs to peer at the thermometer. It was 54F or 12C, so it dropped only 2C over the course of the night. Not bad! Usually in cold weather the temperature in the basement was hovering around 40F to 45F or 4C to 7C. At times, during prolonged cold snaps, it dropped as low as 38F or 3C in the basement. There has been a very real improvement in comfort, and in lower hydro usage.

I continue to enjoy the Christmas tree and the lights. We keep the tree, and light the lights at night, for the month of January. By the time the tree comes down, the days are noticeably longer, and March is only about four weeks away, thoughts of spring begin to stir, and seed catalogues sit beside our easy chairs.

And now I am going to post this entry. My lunch is ready, home canned Taco Soup!

Worldly

Weather

-15°C
Date: 7:00 AM EST Thursday 9 January 2020
Condition: Mainly Clear
Pressure: 104.1 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -15.2°C
Dew point: -19.1°C
Humidity: 73%
Wind: NNE 10 km/h
Wind Chill: -21
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye. The more light you shine on it, the more it will contract.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
1841 – 1935

Filling the Pantry

We had a busy weekend! Having consumed all of our Christmas fare, it was time to replenish the pantry.

Attila made a big batch of Turkey Noodle Soup, with the remains of the Christmas turkey. The way he likes it includes salt, which I don’t eat anymore, so this soup will be exclusively for Attila’s consumption. Which, as it turns out, is just fine with me, because when there is no salt in Turkey Noodle Soup, it isn’t one of my favourite meals.

For my part, we were in need of baked goods, going into Attila’s first full week back at work, so baking it was. On Saturday I milled 24 cups of organic whole wheat flour. Because I wanted to use sunflower seeds in my baking, I roasted then cooled two cups of them. Then I used the freshly milled flour to bake one dozen Cranberry Chocolate Chip Muffins, one dozen Apple Raisin Nut Seed Chocolate Chip Muffins, five loaves of whole wheat sandwich bread, and when all of that was cooling I made four liters of Switchel, which Attila takes as a beverage in his lunch. Phew.

On Sunday the bread machine was put to good use baking a loaf of Cranberry Raisin Panettone. Another kitchen project was processing the dried egg shells. Whenever there are fresh egg shells, the membranes are removed, they are dried, then pulverized with a mortar and pestle. The egg shell powder is saved for sprinkling on the garden as a soil amendment. It was being stored in a glass jar, but has now been transferred to a reused spice container with a shaker lid, to make it easier to apply to the soil.

Attila spent his weekend working on the remaining fiddly bits of the basement insulation project. Some of those fiddly bits are discussed, as we need to make joint decisions about them, but most I leave to Attila’s own devices. There are still loose ends to attend to down there, for instance, the wiring has to be rerouted and installed properly, before the drywall can be installed.

So few words here describe so much activity!

I continue to enjoy my audio books. My eyes get very tired by the end of the day, and a long break from the digital screens is needed. Listening to audio books allows me some distraction while I wander around the house puttering with this and that. They are played by the iPad, so are portable, and follow me wherever my little projects take me. Right now I am listening to Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I am familiar with the book, but that does not prevent me from enjoying the story read aloud to me!

I find myself quite relieved that the intensity of the holiday season has subsided. The flurry of activity is enjoyable, but it can be tiring. Of course, with the basement in flux, the main floor of the house is cluttered with items normally stored down there: boxes of empty mason jars; boxes of mason jars full of food; boxes of storage jars with things like powdered kale and celery; and all manner of little things like tins, boxes of tea, that sort of thing. It will be spring I think, before I can begins to organize things downstairs, and then organize things upstairs. For example, yesterday I accidentally knocked over a cup of pens and pencils that was on the kitchen table, as I was trying to read a recipe from a book I had placed next to the cup. I felt so annoyed! This renovation is going as fast as it can go. Oh well, I will just have to keep my cool and carry on, time will set things right again.

Speaking of spring, it is only 73 days until the first day of spring! 73 days ago it as October 25th, which doesn’t seem so very long ago. Tempus fugit. Each one of those 73 days will be a little brighter than the day before it. But is going to get colder before it gets warmer!

Today I am spending some time contemplating a window treatment for the window in the new front door. Fun.

Worldly

Weather

1°C
Date: 9:00 AM EST Monday 6 January 2020
Condition: Light Snow
Pressure: 100.8 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 1.0°C
Dew point: -0.6°C
Humidity: 89%
Wind: WSW 21 gust 32 km/h
Visibility: 19 km

Quote
“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”
Unknown
Misattributed to Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland
By Lewis Carroll

Publications consulted, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland misattribution:

  1. THE MILLENNIUM FULCRUM EDITION 3.0
  2. SAM’L GABRIEL SONS & COMPANY
    NEW YORK
  3. Copyright, 1916,
    by SAM’L GABRIEL SONS & COMPANY, NEW YORK
  4. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. With a Proem by Austin Dobson
    London, William Heinemann, New York, Doubbleday
  5. Copyright A. C. McCLURG & CO. 1915
    Published December, 1915
    Rights to produce this play in all countries of the world are reserved by Alice Gerstenberg
    W. F. MAEL PRINTING COMPANY, CHICAGO
  6. The Tenniel Illustrations for Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
    by Sir John Tenniel