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

Time is not a solid.

This is my Granny and Grandpa’s house in 2016. Although I am sad that the house belongs to strangers now, I am grateful to have such wonderful memories of it. And I am hopeful that the new owners will have as many happy experiences here as our family has enjoyed.

As of today my Granny and Grandpa’s house and property belongs to someone new. From what I hear, that someone, who is nameless to me, is going to “renovate” the house. That might mean anything, but I suspect the bottom line is that renovating will not require a building permit, while building a new building would, and the city-cottager dominated government in the township has very high ideals when it comes to new buildings… in my opinion the area is now a Disney Land in the bush for the affluent. So renovating an old building is permitted, for the less affluent, while new build costs and regulations are more than prohibitive.

It was 90 years ago that my Great Grandfather bought the property. It was originally built by the railway, then it was purchased by a local family, and they sold it to my Great Grandfather at the very beginning of the Depression.

My Grandparents had married just months before the Depression began. My Grandfather, at that time, worked in Toronto, and my Grandmother was thrilled to be moving to the city. But that did not last long, and soon my Granny and Grandpa were back home again in the country, living in a small clapboard cabin, where my Grandfather worked at my Great Grandfather’s saw mill. It was a very basic cabin. I have seen one picture of my Grandparents at that time, and they both look very, very happy.

Within the year, 1930, my Great Grandfather purchased the General Store and Post Office, and my Grandparents moved into the attached house and became local merchants and postmaster. Well, although my Grandpa’s name was on all of the official documents, he was busy with his hauling road material business, and the store and post office responsibilities fell to my Granny. My Mom and Aunts and Uncle were born and brought home from the hospital to this house. They grew up there. I, and my siblings and cousins, spent blissful days, and sometimes weeks, visiting there.

The store and post office closed in the late 60s, and Granny and Grandpa continued to live in the house and on the property. We played for hours in the old store. What great memories.

Granny passed away in 1976. Grandpa continued living in the house until he passed in 1985. Since then it belonged to their three daughters, then two daughters, then one daughter, my Mom. My Mom sold the property this autumn, and the deal closed today.

It is a day of allowing the sad feelings to come, then allowing them to go, moving on to grateful memories of my beautiful Grandparents, and accepting that nothing lasts forever.

There are no solids in time.

Me, my Aunties, and my Mom (middle), at Granny and Grandpa’s house.
Don’t see me? I will be born in the next few weeks/months after this photograph was taken.
Granny and Grandpa’s house has been a big part of my universe, until today. Thank goodness for memories!

Worldly

Weather

-3°C
Date: 10:42 AM EST Wednesday 18 December 2019
Condition: Light Snowshower
Pressure: 100.8 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -3.4°C
Dew point: -6.3°C
Humidity: 80%
Wind: NW 14 km/h
Wind Chill: -8
Visibility: 16 km

Quote

The Listeners
BY WALTER DE LA MARE
‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

Wheat Berries

Attila ventured out on Monday after work to find a Christmas Tree. He likes a real tree, and so do I. There weren’t many available by the time Attila started looking, but he eventually found one, for $40. It is our Christmas indulgence, well one of them, food is the other. I am lucky in that he will do all the decorating, and enjoys doing it. I just have to be careful not to supervise, although the temptation is great at times! I have to content myself with sitting in my easy chair and playing the part of the great admirer… I’ve got this!

I milled flour earlier this week, and used the last of the bag of wheat berries. That bag lasted for four months, as we purchased it early in August. It provided us with all of our wheat related products, which are primarily breads and muffins. We have two more bags in the freezer, which should last until early August, at which time another journey to the supplier will be in order.

Whole wheat flour will go rancid. We used to purchase large bags of it, when I was working, and we lived in the country. But the intermittent and unpredictable hours that I worked interfered with bread baking, and as a result I did not use all of the flour in time, we lost some of it. So I knew I needed to come up with a better supply flow model. Wheat berries will remain viable far longer than ground flour, so I turned my attention to wheat berries, and a grain mill. Freezing the wheat berries further extends their freshness, so that I can keep a year’s supply without losing quality in my whole wheat flour. Domestic grain mills are readily available on the internet.

Now that I mill my own flour, I use it for everything, bread, muffins, cakes, cookies, squares, if it calls for flour, I use whole wheat. This can be challenging at times, but I am learning how to tweak recipes for optimal results. I enjoy doing this, it is a hobby with benefits. If I didn’t enjoy it, it would be a tedious and frustrating job!

Finding the wheat berries was the challenge. There are no locally grown grain products to be had. There are a few farmers selling wheat berries locally, but they are not interested in selling to individuals, as they focus on sales to specialty bakeries and small artisan food processors. They fail to respond to my inquiries. I think it is a matter of “if you have to ask the price you cannot afford it”, so why waste time talking to me. I am keeping an eye on organic producers in Western Canada, and ways to ship their product here at a reasonable cost. So far, so bad, I haven’t found a feasible way to do it. But I haven’t given up, in my imagination there is someone returning to Ontario with an empty truck!

Worldly

Weather

-7°C
Date: 7:00 AM EST Wednesday 11 December 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.4 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: -7.0°C
Dew point: -9.7°C
Humidity: 81%
Wind: ESE 11 km/h
Wind Chill: -12
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”
John Wooden
1910 – 2010

The invisible thread that keeps our species viable on planet earth, despite our weaknesses.

I’ve Got This! Or Maybe This Got Me.

Chocolates have always been my favourite treat at Christmas time. But now, being older and experiencing the inevitable consequence of time, chocolates are something I no longer indulge in. What to do!

I think I have found my solution. Sweet yeast breads! I made loaf of Panettone number four yesterday, and it is so, so good! I eat it plain, and sometimes I spread a wee bit of butter on it. And I enjoy every single bite. This bread has me on the hook.

Here is the nutritional information on my loaf of Panettone bread. Instead of raisins (I can’t find them!) I used 1/2 cup of dried apples, and 1/2 cup of dried cranberries. The bread is a little high in cholesterol, but since I don’t consume many food with cholesterol, this won’t be an issue.
The real benefit of this bread, is that for me, it is a great substitute for rich Christmas desserts, pies, cakes, cookies, and worst of all chocolates. When compared to the usual dessert roster, this bread is clearly health food.

We are having a quiet weekend here at home, as usual. Attila is working on the insulating the basement. He now has the stud walls built, and the insulation installed, for about 50% of the total area to be covered. It is slow going but oh so satisfying. The difference can be felt when standing in the area of the basement that is now insulated, then moving to an area yet to be insulated. The chill in the area that has no insulation is unmistakable. This is a good winter project, as most of the work is indoors, with only a bit of lumber to be cut in the garage.

I’ve asked Attila to build me a coat rack at the bottom of the basement stairs. Until now I’ve donned my winter wear at the top of the stairs, but have decided that I want to struggle with my winter boots at the bottom of the stairs, where I can place a chair. We use the basement entry exclusively in the winter, and do not clear a path to our official front door. So the basement is where I would prefer to don my winter garb. He not only prepared, painted, and installed a coat rack for me, he also painted the wall behind it, and the wall in the stairwell beside it.

Slowly but surely it is becoming easier to live in Mist Cottage.

Worldly

Weather

4°C
Date: 7:00 PM EST Sunday 8 December 2019
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 4.0°C
Dew point: -0.6°C
Humidity: 72%
Wind: S 45 gust 62 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside.”
Hugh Macleod
1965 –