Kettles and Coolers

Part 1

So here it is, December!

I am writing this from the little house in the city. We drove down on Friday night, got here just before midnight. Mist will spend two nights on her own. We turned on the electric heat before we left, so the temperature will not drop to freezing no matter how cold it gets outside. If the power went out, she would still be warm enough, just not cozy, with the heat from the masonry heater. The cost of electric heat for a two night absence will probably be over $50 but hopefully under $100. We will not be doing that very often, or without careful consideration. That is one of the two huge difficulties we face in regard to winter mobility. The other is driving conditions.

Attila turned on the hot water heater, and a few hours later we had a lot of water spreading over the basement floor. Toast. The hot water heater is toast. It is old, really old and it came with the house. We were pleased to have it, although it was a real energy hog from the dark ages. Now we have a beautiful new shower in our bathroom and no hot water. That’s life. We cannot afford a new hot water heater right now, and certainly would never rent one from the companies in Canada. They try to lock you into contracts for life, with stiff fees to get out, no thank you. When we can afford a new hot water heater, we will purchase it outright and Attila will install it. In the meantime, when we need hot water we fill up and plug in the electric kettle.

Earlier this autumn our used refrigerator gave up the ghost. It is still in the kitchen, unplugged, with the doors held ajar with a broomstick. We use it as a storage cupboard. To keep our milk and eggs and cheese and perishables cold we use a cooler. It isn’t so bad. We have a Koolatron and we plug it in while we are visiting the house, and unplug it when we leave. Next summer we will probably resort to a regular cooler and make ice in our basement freezer to keep our perishables fresh.

So it is back to kettles and coolers at the little house in the city. I look at is as a luxurious winter camping experience. You can usually, barring evil, find a comforting perspective for less than perfect circumstances. Life is generally a less than perfect experience, for the majority anyway.

Attila has been working on the wiring. He has removed countless yards of dead electrical wires. He is now removing wiring that was ill conceived, replacing and rerouting it correctly. We have decided that over the winter that is what he will work on, and it is slow going. And the before and after pictures look almost the same!

When we arrived at the little house in the city, there was snow on the ground. We expected to be forced to park on the street, blocked by the snow banked across the end of the driveway by the snow plow. However, one of our neighbours had ploughed our driveway. We do not know who it was, but what a wonderful thing to do! There are very good reasons I prefer the little house in the city to the beautiful country house. All that glitters is not gold.

Because our little house in the city is in such a friendly little neighbourhood, I decided to put up a few Christmas decorations, just to make the house seem friendly too. I spent $3.00 on Christmas balls and a big red ribbon for the front door, all plastic, all made in the third world. It looks cheery from a distance, which is what I wanted it to do.

I felt bad, and so I should, buying these cheap goods made by people who are underpaid and probably not treated all that well either. I couldn’t find any Canadian made baubles to buy. I will handle my $3.00 worth of cheap baubles with care, and reuse them year after year, and send my Christmas goodwill energy to those workers around the world who are making poverty wages. “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride”. And I will watch for opportunities to buy Canadian made goods whenever I can.

Part 2

We left for home about noon today. The day was overcast with intermittent rain. At least rain is what we started out with. As we travelled north the rain became more robust, until it became wet snow. The roads were wet, but there was no ice because the temperature remained above 0C. We arrived home at dusk, and so avoided having to drive after dark through snow, and dropping temperatures.

The country house was cool, 9C when I came up the stairs with the first load of belongings. Mist was sleeping in my chair. While she was still sleeping I began to build a fire in the masonry heater. She did not waken until the flames were well under way. Since she is stone deaf, I could make a racket setting the fire and not disturb her sleep. However, the bit of heat that began to emanate from the heater caused her to wake suddenly. She thought about berating me for our absence, and the lack of heat, but just as she got started she was distracted by the flickering fire, and sat before the heater staring, or should I say worshipping, the flames.

The first firing of the masonry heater brought the temperature up to 14C, which is not quite warm enough, Mist and I agree. Attila chopped more wood, and has started a fire in the little wood stove downstairs, to supplement the heat until the masonry heater is fully charged again.

This was the first visit this autumn, to the little house in the city, that we have had to concern ourselves with heating while we are away. What a pain the patootie! Mist agrees.

Tonight it is “warm” outside, hovering above freezing. I can tell because the accumulated snow on the roof is sliding down, falling, and landing with great whoooomfs on the deck!

According to the weather people, we will have freezing drizzle tomorrow. Lucky us, to have missed travelling in freezing drizzle!

Worldly Distractions


Date: 7:23 PM EST Sunday 1 December 2013
Condition: Light Rain
Pressure: 101.6 kPa
Visibility: 2 km
Temperature: 0.3°C
Dewpoint: 0.2°C
Humidity: 99%
Wind: calm


“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”
Dorothy Parker
1893 – 1967

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It seems that with a house, it’s always something. And with two, it multiplies. I wish you all the best as you face these challenges.

Joan Lansberry

I echo what Wendy said. Stay warm and well, all of you!


I don’t know how you keep it all going, two houses, and in a country where weather is severe and plays a big role in living accommodations. I see Canada has had lots of snow lately, it’s missing our little nook here on the North Shore of Boston, thankfully. I used to like snow, especially that first snow of the season, but now that I have mobility challenges, snow or ice or freezing drizzle underfoot, for me, is treacherous and not to be messed with. I’m thinking this winter will be a longer than usual winter – weather-wise anyway.

As for Mist, was she always deaf? We adopted a while kitten once and didn’t learn he was deaf for a couple of months – he was albino I believe and was born deaf. I guess Mist would do for a “guard cat” but then strange noises don’t scare her, either.


I meant “we adopted a WHITE kitten…” oops.


gosh, I am bad… I also meant “I guess Mist WOULDN’T do for a “guard cat”…” I wish you had an edit feature here in Comments! I never get things right the first time!