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.

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.””

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 –

Looking Back, and Forward

I have entertained myself during the last few dreary gray weeks by watching The 1940s House. I enjoyed it a great deal, and loved the practicality, and the attention to the truly important aspects of family, the glue of society, during that awful war experience. Life was shown to be very difficult for those who maintained domestic stability during that era. So many times I have heard balanced historians describing survival during “pioneering” or “unstable” social periods, to be centered around the ability of families or small social units to maintain the basic necessities of life… human connection, shelter, food, and clothing. Too often, I think, “history” focuses on the wealthy and the violent, ignoring the vital role played by the provision of basic human needs.

A delightful aspects of the series were the appearances of Marguerite Patten OBE (1915 – 2015), who was one of the consultants for the series.

“The Ministry Food Advice Division employed dieticians and many home economists, to help people throughout the country. Our role, for I was one of the food advisers, was to conduct cookery demonstrations and talks to show what interesting things could be made with the rationed and unrationed foods available.”
Marguerite Patten, Victory Cookbook: Nostalgic Food and Fact from 1940 – 1954, In association with Imperial War Museum, 2002 Edition, Forward.”

This book arrived on my doorstep a few months ago, and I am enjoying it. The first degree I studied for was Home Economics, with an emphasis on Food and Nutrition, three years. I loved it, and I taught Home Economics in the public school system in Ontario. So this book is right up my alley.

Two of the things I have been thinking about and researching, in relation to my interest in domestic science, are the head scarf, and aprons.

I’ve never worn head scarves, as my head has rejected them within minutes. I must have a very animated head, because not even hats will stay on properly, unless they are tied on. So you would think a head scarf would work right… nope. But Lyn, in the 1940s House series, is ever so briefly shown tying on a head scarf as she prepared to do housework. The technique was new to me; I was hooked. I had to try it! The only scarves I have are over 30 years old, and are 40 inches square, a little too large for the project I think. The result is supposed to have either a little bow top front, or the ends tucked in neatly. I can accomplish neither, and end up with a great wad of fabric just above my forehead. A smaller scarf is called for, something to think about.

Attila likes the look, and so do I. But the what I like most is that it stays on my head! And that it prevents my ever so cleverly errant hair from escaping into my eyes, my nose, and my mouth.


So, here I am with my great edifice on the top of my head, which should be a wee bow, but you get the drift. It is a project in process. Fair dues, I took over a dozen photos of myself before I finally settled on this one, I don’t consider myself to be photogenic, and only take selfies when I want to demonstrate something, I am a free model. Photos are great in that all the blemishes are sort of pixelated out, so I end up looking a lot younger than I do in real life! I get the same effect when I take off my glasses and look in the mirror; that is when I look most like the “myself” I had become so accustomed to seeing over the decades of adulthood. I do miss the way I used to look. Oh well, been there, done that, doing this now.

I made an apron some years ago, that I wear almost every day. I want to make another apron, but haven’t yet decided on the pattern. The closest I have come to a pattern that I think will work for me is a pattern for a doll apron. And, well, the pattern needs a few alterations if it is going fit me! I am thinking of making a “template” apron, from an old sheet, to see how I like it before committing valuable fabrics to the style.

Attila continues to spend his evenings working on the basement insulation project. It is coming along really, really well. The whole wall-with-exterior-exposed, has been framed, the insulation, the vapour barrier, and taping finished off. Just the drywall, and paint to go now for that section. Some of the drywall even got installed last night!

I am really looking forward to the completion of this project! Not because it is particularly intrusive, but so that I can begin to organize the storage in the basement. Organizing the basement has been on hold for 10 years now, four of those years we have actually lived here full time. We will be able to unpack the last boxes, and put things where we can easily find them.

The first drywall has been installed! Attila installed this last night. This is mold resistant drywall, because this is a basement application, and although the basement has no moisture issues now, the air is moist because it is a basement, where cool air settles and moisture condenses. We are painting the drywall white, which will make it area much brighter.

When we bought the house there were two dismal rooms down here. One was a bedroom, with a broken window, with a piece of plywood nailed over it. It had carpet over the concrete. Everything was covered with mold and mildew. The other room was a “rec room”, in similar condition to the bedroom. Everything smelled awful from the mold and mildew, and mice and chipmunk colonies that lived there.
That first year we removed the window in the basement, the one you see in the image, and Attila tore everything out, gutted the basement completely. It was all removed through the window opening, and thrown into the large rented dumpster. We also put a new roof on that first summer, so the large dumpster was full of debris from the house. The renovations had begun, and we are still at it, but not quite to so hard at it anymore, thank goodness.

Worldly

Weather

4°C
Date: 9:00 AM EST Wednesday 27 November 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 4.2°C
Dew point: 2.5°C
Humidity: 89%
Wind: NE 24 gust 34 km/h
Visibility: 13 km

Wind warning in effect
Southwesterly wind with gusts near 90 km/h tonight.
Very strong southwesterly winds with gusts near 90 km/h are expected to develop early this evening as a sharp cold front blasts through. These damaging winds will persist into the overnight hours before before veering to the west and diminishing.
The highest wind gusts will be along exposed areas of the Lake Ontario shoreline.
Power outages are possible.
Damage to buildings, such as to roof shingles and windows, may occur. Loose objects may be tossed by the wind and cause injury or damage. Be prepared to adjust your driving with changing road conditions due to high winds.

Quote

“My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?”
Charles M. Schulz
1922 – 2000

There are many cartoonists, that I read and wonder, “so?” I feel I’ve missed the point somehow. They must be using a set of experiences for a frame of reference, a set of experiences I did not have, and haven’t even observed.

BUT Charles M. Schulz is one of the cartoonists I actually “got”, there have been a few.