2016 Retrospective

Although the calendar year is a mere human artifact, it is one that is familiar to me, and so has meaning in my life. It is time to say farewell to 2016.

A year in retrospect, the highlights.

At the end of the years I always think of A Tale Of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Who is to know what will come, I think to myself. How will we know until the end what was the best, and what was the worst, I ask myself.

The year began with Attila starting on regular night shift at his job. This was a big improvement over working rotating shifts, as he had done since our move to Mist Cottage the previous September. By May he had been offered a promotion to a position that was day shift, and allowed weekends off. This was the first time since we have been together that he has had weekends off, it felt like a miracle, and it still does.

Early winter also saw my Mom facing cancer treatment. There was worry involved for those of us who love her. Not a whine or a whimper escaped her though. She underwent radiation therapy with incredible courage, in her typical indomitable way. And now at the end of a very long year for my Mom, she is cancer free, and recovering from the severe effects of radiation treatment. The side effects of the radiation treatment were severe, and are ongoing. Mom seems to have made her peace with the reality, and has resumed almost all of her previous activities, and is a going concern once more. Sometimes I am in awe of my Mom.

Mom 1945 6 Parry Sound High School picture My Mom at the age of 15, cropped from a school picture, at the end of the second world war.

In the spring of 2016 Attila and I found and purchased the Rideau Camp. We spent every spare minute working there, clearing brambles, brush, dead trees, logs, and garbage. We built a fire pit and a compost toilet system. It was easily the happiest spring of my life, and Attila feels the same way about it.

DSCF8642 This is the Rideau Camp at the end of May, 2016. At this point we had owned the property for seven weeks, the brambles that covered the flat area between the gravel and the wood pile had been cleared and burned by then. We were preparing the camp fire pit, and enjoying picnics every weekend at the Camp.

We also purchased Iris the trailer during the spring. She is a 1976/7 Triple E Surfside trailer, in reasonable condition. We enjoyed camping at our Rideau Camp, and at our Ancestral Camp.

TrailerWEB Iris, on March 5, when we picked her up. It snowed that day!

Also in the early spring we demolished the garden shed at Mist Cottage, and Attila replaced it with a solidly built shed. This project was to take only a few weeks, but the summer had other plans for our time, and it was finally completed in late October. Attila also installed a dishwasher in August, and I must say it is game changer in the kitchen, we love it!

DSCF9742 The renewed Garden Shed, ready for duty at last on October 9, solid and roomy and hopefully mouse proof!

NewImage The new dishwasher. Our counter space is limited, you can see all of it in the photo, and it makes a huge difference when the dirty dishes are piled in the appliance and not on the counters. It also takes little time to wash and air dry the dishes, which are very easy to put away in such a small kitchen.

In late spring Sunny and Sky were born, 7 weeks premature. They were in NICU for six weeks, and Sky had a few touch and go moments. They came home with Terra and Lares, began to thrive, and are beautiful babies. One of Sky’s middle names is Robert, my brother Carl’s middle name, which is just a coincidence as the babie’s middle names are all after Lares side of the family, but it gives me comfort nevertheless.

FullSizeRender Sunny (left) and Sky (right) at 5 months (Gestational 3 months).

We had our first ever summer vacation last July. It was an event we anticipated with great excitement. It just goes to show you that you never know what is around the corner. After spending a few days at our Ancestral Camp, we returned home, then received the news that my brother had suffered a massive heart attack and lay unconscious in a hospital in Toronto. He experienced cardiac arrest for 15 minutes before being resuscitated, and never regained consciousness; my Mom, and all of my siblings were by his side through the long days of hope and disappointment. His funeral was held weeks later. Losing my brother was a profound experience for me, we were babies together, I feel his absence to the core of my being. Carl was an organ donor, and saved three lives.

LittleBrother1970sAtGrannys My brother Carl, at Granny and Grandpa’s house. He returned to spend time at the house almost every year, and that is where we experienced our reunion the summer before last.

By August my blood pressure was high, very high, and would not come down, even after quadrupling my medication. I began a round of doctors appointments at the walk-in-clinic (after more than a year, we still can’t find a family doctor), and had a nuclear stress test on my heart (normal!). The levels slowly lowered, but are still in the “high blood pressure” range. In September I adopted a low-sodium, low-sugar diet, and began taking Apple Cider Vinegar before each meal, which helped. By October I had decided to reduce the ineffective and redundant medication dosage back to the original low dosage, which made no difference at all, but I did find that discontinuing the medication resulted in my blood pressure skyrocketing again, so went back to taking the low dosage. The dietary changes are an intense experience, because something like a pickle and piece of bread could put me over my daily limit for sodium. I also found that food without sodium or sugar is not all that interesting, so that as soon as hunger is satisfied, I stop eating. I no longer eat for pleasure, because it is not pleasurable, just necessary. There has been a slight weight loss.

The most significant feature of 2016 has been that we live at Mist Cottage, and that Attila has regular working hours and weekends off. These two situations are game changers, and have improved our experience of life immeasurably.

It was a year of much joy and deep sorrow.

P.S. I invite you to share the highlights of your 2016, would love to hear them!

Worldly Distractions


Date: 7:05 AM EST Saturday 31 December 2016
Condition: Light Snow
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: -4.3°C
Dew point: -6.3°C
Humidity: 86%
Wind: E 18 km/h
Wind Chill: -10
Visibility: 3 km


“You better live your best and act your best and think your best today, for today is the sure preparation for tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that follow.”
Harriet Martineau
1802 – 1876


Saturday, October 8, 2016

I slept in until 6:52 a.m.!!!! Wow! A rare event! Getting knocked back by this Shingles Vaccination has an upside.

By 9:30 a.m. we had our picnic lunch packed, along with equipment, and had headed out to the Rideau Camp. It was a chilly day, and we were both glad to have brought jackets along with us. Attila worked at removing cedar logs from the log pile, and extracting dead branches, which I burned. Everything was damp when we got there, so I took extra care setting the fire in the fire pit. We saved the branches from two dead Juniper bushes, the fine spindly branches burn easily. Attila dug out last week’s ashes, to use as landfill, and I set about setting my fire. I used dry newspaper, four sheets crumpled, on the bottom, then a two inch layer of fine Juniper branches, then some pine branches about one inch in diameter, and then some larger pine branches. I lit the newspaper and within a few minutes we had a roaring fire. The flames from the dry newspaper were able to dry out the Juniper branches so that they burned well. The flames from the Juniper branches were able to dry out the pine branches so that they burned well. When the fire was roaring, I began to add the damp cedar branches as Attila pulled them out of the ground. This went on all day.

At about noon I let the fire burn itself down to ashes, so that Attila could grill our cheese and onion on rye sandwiches. There really is nothing like a cheese sandwich grilled over an open fire, oh so delicious.

After we had eaten, I used small pine branches to get the fire going again. I didn’t need paper; setting the pine branches on the hot coals was very effective, within ten minutes the pine burst into flame and I was able to resume burning the branches that Attila was pulling out of the dirt in the log pile.

Can you see the frog? When I was reaching for a small fallen branch to burn in the camp fire, something jumped and rustled the leaves. I withdrew my hand quickly, looked around and could see nothing. Then then I heard the leaves near my feet rustle again, and I looked down to see a frog. He is a long way from water, and perhaps is attracted by the spiders, we have a lot of really big spiders in our bush. That fox we saw the other week would love to eat him for dinner, but first he would have to find him!
Frog 1
Can you see the frog? I panned in to the area where the frog was sitting.
Frog 2
Can you see the frog? I bet you can! There he sat, still as stone, for the better part of a half hour. Then he moved, and although he couldn’t have gone far, I couldn’t find him! His camouflage is very good. We avoided walking in that section of the camp during our visit, to ensure we didn’t step on him. He will have moved on by the time we return for our next visit.
Frog 3

We drove home into the sunset, quite literally. We drive west to return home, so that when we leave in the fading light, we are driving into the sunset. The drive home was quite beautiful, some of the farm fields along the way had been harvested, others had not. The fall colours in this part of Ontario are quite subdued, compared to what we enjoyed at our country house, but still quite beautiful.

As a treat for ourselves, after a day spent working in the bush, we ordered a pizza for our dinner. Pizza Pizza lists every single ingredient in their food, so I know what I can have, and what to avoid. We enjoyed our pizza, and topped off the evening by watching a few episodes of Upstairs Downstairs, an old favourite.

Monday, October 9, 2016

We had frost last night! It got some of the Scarlet Runner beans, where the wind had blown off the plastic sheeting that Attila had covered them with. The rest of the garden stayed covered and made it through.

It is finished!! Attila worked most of the day installing the rest of the shelves in the garden shed. This garden shed has taken from June to October to build, much longer than the two-weekends-and-the-week-in-between that was estimated when we made our plans for the summer. Of course family events this summer took priority over any projects. Our Grandbabies Sunny and Sky were born prematurely, which interrupted construction; and the sudden death of my brother Carl shut down projects for much of July and August. But at long last the project is finished, and today we started to move things into it. So far just empty appliance boxes (I keep them, I know!!!), and some camping equipment and extra coolers.

Here it is, the garden shed, all ready for occupancy.
The interior of the shed, at the top you can see the floor of the attic. The shelves were old steel hardware store shelves that were being thrown out, so Attila snatched them up, years ago, we have been moving these babies around, so it is great relief to be finally using them.
The drain, that I have been calling a French drain, but perhaps it isn’t strictly a French drain. It runs along the side of the shed. The photo shows all three stages of construction. On the right the crushed stone can be seen, then the black section to the left of the stone, near the middle, is garden fabric, and on the far left Attila has begun to cover the fabric with earth and sod. On the very far left is a rain barrel (really a large plastic garbage can) sitting on large piece of granite that we brought home from our Rideau Camp. The Camp is on the Canadian Shield, so there is lots of granite on the property.

I spent part of my morning choosing a new front entry door. The door we presently have does not work well, does not close property, and the wind blows in as a result. A new front door has been on our list since we purchased Mist Cottage six years ago. The door will be ordered and will take about a month to be delivered, then Attila will install it. We really should have thought to order it earlier, as November is not an ideal time of year to be installing a door; we weren’t anticipating that we would need to order it and have to wait for delivery. The new door should help us keep the house warm this winter. The present door will be saved to use at the Rideau Camp, when we build a garden shed there, someday.

The reaction to the Shingles Vaccine is beginning to dissipate. I received the shot last Tuesday. By Saturday the swollen, red, and itchy area had spread on the underside of my arm, from my underarm to my elbow. It was sore to the touch, and itchy, but didn’t really bother me too much unless I bumped it on something. Yesterday the area affected had diminished, but it was much itchier, and this morning the red swollen area has shrunk to it’s original size, about two inches in diameter, and it is no longer itchy. I think I am on the mend. I am still tired though, and sleeping 8 hours a night, so I am still recovering even though the redness and swelling have gone down significantly.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 7:00 AM EDT Monday 10 October 2016
Condition: Mainly Clear
Pressure: 103.0 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 0.2°C
Dewpoint: -1.4°C
Humidity: 89%
Wind: N 8 km/h


“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.”
Will Durant
1885 – 1981

The Perfect Summer Day At Last

We enjoyed a lovely weekend.

On Friday night Attila suggested we go to the lake shore (Lake Ontario) to watch the Full Harvest Moon rise. So we drove down to the lake and found a nice spot in a park, setting up our folding chairs on a platform overlooking the water. The moonrise was spectacular! It came up over the horizon a bright orange, it seemed so very large. We stayed for an hour or so, chatting and watching the moon ascend the sky, its light reflected across the water. We missed the eclipse though. We were the only ones at the park, no one else seemed to have the same idea. Attila and I had a wonderful time, a great Friday night out.

Harvest Full Moon, Lake Ontario, September 16, 2016. Below the moon the trees are in silhouette along the shoreline.
Harvest full moon

Saturday was humid, cloudy, and raining, we we decided not to go camping, and to stay home. Our morning was spent shopping, it was a bit of a spree. We had received a $100 gift credit card when we purchased our dishwasher, it arrived in the mail last week. It was burning a hole in our pockets! We stocked up on lots of lovely things.

It is harvest season in Ontario, our spree focused on buying fresh vegetables. We purchased a ten pound bag of onions, a ten pound bag of carrots, and a twenty pound bag of potatoes. I find the carrots go black awfully fast, it must be the variety they grow, it doesn’t store well. I decided to roast the whole ten pounds of carrots, which I did, they were delicious. I cooled and packaged them, two meals worth in a bag, and put them into the chest freezer. I am considering trying to make individual serving Cream of Carrot soup this winter for my lunch, using thawed roasted carrots, 1% milk, and an appropriate herb, which I haven’t figured out yet.

Attila has almost finished the garden shed! It is full of construction materials and not ready for use yet, but by next week he should have it cleaned out and ready to organize. Thank goodness! One step left to go, ensuring it stays dry!

This morning we arose to a foggy, humid world. The weather report predicted sunny warm weather at the Rideau Camp, so we packed our cooler, filled our water bottles, loaded up some of the wood scraps we still need to burn, and were on the road shortly after 9 a.m. The weather just got better and better all day. It was the nicest day we have had all summer, a perfect summer day, and we were very grateful to be at the camp to enjoy it.

Attila brought brush and set it near the camp fire pit, it was the dead wood we had cleared from under the hydro lines. There was a lot of it, it took me all day to burn it. I enjoyed breaking the dead wood into small pieces to burn it, sitting in the shade far from the heat of the fire, venturing near it only to add fuel. One of the things I love about my all day camp fires is cooking meals over the open fire. Today’s lunch was grilled cheese sandwiches, with sweet onion slices cooked in the sandwich. They were so good!

There was the most wonderful breeze that blew across the camp all day long, it was so refreshing. I love the Rideau Camp because there are few people sounds there, and I can hear the wind as it sings a duet with the trees, it is such a musical sound, it reaches into me like a lullaby.

Attila was very busy. After some discussion this summer, we decided that two of the trees at the edge of the camp would be removed, stumps and all. Their removal will allow easier maneuvering when we have Iris the trailer with us. Today was removal day. Attila used a winch, chain, maul, and the sweat of his brow to remove those trees; quite literally the trees were removed by the sweat of Attila’s brow, he was soaked to the skin by the time the job was done.

We decided to construct a French Drain to guide water away from our new garden shed. We need gravel to do this. We also need gravel to level the low areas at the camp, which make pulling the trailer very tricky. The decision was made to order two loads of gravel from a local business near the Rideau Camp. In preparation for that delivery, Attila pounded stakes in the two areas that we decided we wanted the gravel loads dumped. I tied orange tape to each stake so that they could be easily located by the delivery person. Then we needed to put a sign at the entrance to the property, to identify it for the delivery person. We don’t have a 911 number, because it is a vacant lot. A piece of plywood with the street number painted on it was nailed to a stake, and the stake was driven into the ground under the pine tree at our entrance, making it very easy to find our property. Attila will order the gravel this week.

After the gravel is delivered, we will make several trips to the Rideau Camp during the week, after Attila gets home from work, to bring back loads of gravel to construct the French Drain. That will be the last step for the garden shed project.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 9:00 PM EDT Sunday 18 September 2016
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.5 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 21.1°C
Dewpoint: 19.1°C
Humidity: 88%
Wind: S 12 km/h
Humidex: 28


“It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.”
Eleanor Roosevelt
1884 – 1962

That is how our mother raised us!

One For The Books

Here is one for the books, or the blog. I was just sitting here at my computer working on my book, when I heard the garbage collection truck coming down the street. Normal. Then my mind wandered and I found myself thinking, “well here is another Monday morning, another week begins.” What! This is Friday, the beginning of a weekend. My week was pleasant enough that I unconsciously equated it with a weekend. This is a first. Wow, pinch me!

Last Sunday night Attila loaded about a third of the combustible debris from the old garden shed into Tank, and we took it to the Rideau Camp, where I burned it to ash. Then on Wednesday, when Attila arrived home from work, we repeated the exercise, then we had two thirds of the job done. Last night Attila loaded the last of the combustibles into Tank and off we went once again, and I burned all of that to ash. The entire garden shed has been reduced to a pile of ashes.

Garden Shed before. Actually, what you see in the picture is mostly the siding and the plastic roof, which we didn’t burn but will be taking to the landfill site. It was the wood holding all this together that we carted out to the Camp to burn.
Shed June Reno 1
Garden Shed after.
Garden shed in ashes

My Mom is doing very well. Mom likes hot weather, so the now that the summer has arrived she is in her element! I am missing her!

Sunny and Sky, the preemie Grandbabies, are doing well. Terra is looking very happy.

This weekend we will be focused on moving the shed project along. This morning, after I hung a load of laundry on the clothes line in the back porch, I took a tote and filled it with wood chips that were left after Attila hauled away all the combustible wood from the former garden shed. It was quite a mess, which took about an hour of bending down to the grass to pick out the bits and pieces. My back told me in no uncertain terms that that was enough of that for the day, so I will postpone hoeing the garden until early tomorrow morning. When it is hot, I try to go for my daily walk and do any outdoor tasks before 9 a.m. when the temperature begins to ascend.

Tonight, well tonight our big excitement is making croutons. We can turn on the oven and the air conditioning at the same time, when the hydro is half price after 7 p.m.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 1:00 PM EDT Friday 24 June 2016
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 21.1°C
Dewpoint: 13.2°C
Humidity: 60%
Wind: SSE 13 km/h
Humidex: 24
Sunny. High 27 except 21 near Lake Ontario. Humidex 30. UV index 8 or very high.
Clear. Low 12.
Sat, 25 Jun Mainly sunny. High 28 except 22 near Lake Ontario. Humidex 31.
Night Clear. Low 14.


“It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
J. K. Rowling

First Day of Summer

It has been an intense week!

The shed project continues, slowly. Attila estimated it would take him two weekends and the week in between to complete it; not even close! The roof is on, which is an essential part of the project because it keeps things dry. But the issues with water are not all addressed. The shed sits at the back of the garage, where the water from the garage roof drains. Attila has a plan as to how to prevent that water from pouring into the shed, but I don’t know any details. Best not to get involved at this point, and I will feel relieved when that final phase of protection from the elements is completed. Then on to the walls, the door, and the window.

And then there is the old shed, which sits in bits in a heap on the back lawn. Last night we packed about a third of it into Tank and headed to the Rideau Camp. There we sectioned the wood and burned it as a campfire. Two or three more trips and campfires should have the wood debris burned. The remaining materials, insulation, etc. will be bagged and taken to the construction waste site for disposal, which we will have to pay for.

For the last ten days Attila worked every minute of time off work on the shed, grabbing a bite to eat after dark when he came in from the yard. It wore us both out. We are going to slow the project down, and at least eat dinner together this week. Hopefully he will have the job done by the end of the month, but even that might be optimistic. Attila works slowly, learning as he goes. He is not a seasoned builder, although he does have some experience. Experience is what really counts in the building trade though, and going slowly allows him to self-correct as he moves forward. The shed is built to local and provincial building codes, but there is a lot more to it than simply meeting code.

The shingles are on! It took all day Saturday, into the night, but Attila got the shingles on, with only the roof cap and the trimming left to do on Sunday morning. Water is still an issue, because the garage roof, seen through the shed, drains in the direction of the shed, so it if rains the water from the roof will pour into the shed, might pour into the back of the garage. We are supposed to get thunder storms this afternoon, I have my fingers crossed Attila can get the drainage issue sorted before it rains, otherwise we might have a huge mess to clean up! Life can be very exciting.
Shed shingles

On Saturday morning early our neighbour’s yard sale began. He had advertised the event, and then put flyers in the mailboxes of all the neighbours to invite them to join in on the event. Four other households put items out for sale, which included us. I put out four items, two of which sold, the portable air conditioner, and an iron. The air conditioner was a good deal for the fellow who bought it, as it was still on warranty. We just don’t have enough room here at Mist Cottage to store things we do not use, and our heat pump provides excellent air conditioning so the unit was not going to be used again. The iron was one of the two we had, one for each of our two houses; it is lovely to have just one house!

Also on Saturday there was a Baby Shower for Terra, which I attended. It was tricky getting the vehicle out of the driveway, as the yard sales had generated quite a bit of interest, and the street was lined on both sides with cars, but I managed. It was a 45 minute drive from home, and held in the afternoon at the home of Lares first cousin. Luna drove to stay with Terra for the weekend, and she and Imp and Tink (girls) were at the shower, while Elf (boy) was on a rough camping trip with his Dad and another Dad and son, for a boys weekend Father’s Day extravaganza. There were oodles of people at the shower, many of whom I had met once before, and lots and lots of children and babies. Of course Sunny and Sky were not there, they remained safely under the watch of the professionals at NICU. It was wonderful to see Imp and Tink, I almost didn’t recognize them they had changed so much since the last time I saw them at Christmas. Attila stayed home and worked on the shed, he isn’t fond of “get togethers”, and wanted to keep working on the shed.

Yesterday morning, Sunday, Terra, Luna, Imp, and Tink arrived bearing cards and gifts for Attila for Father’s Day. Terra soon departed, heading for the hospital to feed Sunny and Sky. After Imp and Tink had finished their lunch of cheese, crackers, raw carrots and peppers, and cranberry juice with ginger ale, a beverage Grandpa made for them, Grandma slipped in a bowl of ice cream for each of them. Soon they were off to visit friends on their way home, a four to five hour drive away.

The afternoon found us welcoming Sister-The-Middle-Girl and her Beau Bob for a visit. They had been camping at a nearby Provincial Park, and made a detour on their way home to stop by at our house. The weekend was perfect weather for it, they had their bicycles with them, and it sounded like a lot of fun. It was their first visit to Mist Cottage, so we showed them around, then sat on the back porch talking. The back porch is scorchingly hot in the afternoon sun, so I hung blankets across the porch clothes line to shade the sitting area, it worked well to keep the area relatively cool.

During their visit, I found myself gabbing away about my book, which has been occupying almost all of my time over the last ten days, while Attila has been working non-stop on the shed. Sometimes, when I have spent a lot of time in solitary work, I am like a little kid at show and tell, when I find a willing ear, even a not so willing ear, I share and share and share. I wonder if this output only mode is a partial consequence of having spent so much time at a keyboard which requires constant output, and offers interactive feedback only when I am in touch with my Mom and sisters. I have become unused to interacting with people face t face, other than very superficial pleasantries, with the exception of Attila.

After my sister and Beau Bob headed out on the next leg of their journey, Attila decided he wanted to go to the Rideau Camp. Within an hour he had loaded up a third of the wood debris from the old garden shed and whipper snipper, I had filled 7 water jugs, snacks and beverages, and loaded them into Tank, and we set off for the Rideau Camp.

We were relieved that the army worms had not stripped the leaves from the trees at the camp! Everything was lush and green and a sight for sore eyes. Attila cut the grass and weeds in the camp area and on either side of our long driveway. I burned the wood debris we had brought with us, as luckily there was no fire ban in the Township, we checked online before we left. I watch the watch for fire bans carefully and always obey them; I would hate to loose our beautiful trees! By the the time we had burned the fire down to grey ash, it was dark. After taking our time putting out the fire using the water we brought from home, we headed out towards Mist Cottage under moonlight. It was a perfect ending to the day.

The moon is full tonight, today is Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and the first day of summer. With a humidex of 38C, Mother Nature is emphasizing the event.

Worldly Distractions


18°C °C °F
Date: 5:00 AM EDT Monday 20 June 2016
Condition: Not observed
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Tendency: falling
Temperature: 17.8°C
Dewpoint: 14.9°C
Humidity: 83%
Wind: S 12 km/h

Mainly sunny. Wind becoming southwest 40 km/h gusting to 60 this morning. High 30 except 25 near Lake Ontario. Humidex 38. UV index 8 or very high.
Partly cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms this evening. Clearing overnight. Wind southwest 40 km/h gusting to 60 becoming northwest 20 gusting to 40 this evening then light after midnight. Low 15.


“A child becomes an adult when he realizes that he has a right not only to be right but also to be wrong.”
Thomas Szasz