The Christmas Feast

I wonder if my spelling has always been this atrocious! I am spelling at least one word in every paragraph incorrectly. I can not tell if this is due to old age, if this has always been the case, or if there is a decline due to the use of a keyboard rather than a pen. Whatever the reason, I do not like making spelling errors. Typing errors and faulty autocorrects I can live with, but my spelling errors are getting on my nerves!

Apple has a dictation service, but they keep records of everything dictated, on their servers, which is not acceptable in my view. So I do not use that service. Why would I willingly agree to have all my correspondence recorded by a mega corporation?

The new cell phone is holding its charge. I charged it when I first set it up, last week, and it is registering a half charge, which I interpret to mean a 50% charge. That would make it necessary to charge the cell phone twice a month, not bad. Of course, I don’t use the cell phone much. It has received morning calls from Attila, which I do not answer but take note of, to alert me that he is ready for our FaceTime chat, and one call from Terra. So far, so good. It was the cheapest cell phone available near the little house in the city, so I did not know what to expect. The ratings on this phone were poor, but that was based on it not performing the complex functions used by persons who use their cell phones as more than just an emergency call device. The ratings did not pertain to the features I needed.

This past week, here at the little house without Attila, has passed slowly and peacefully. I do miss Attila when he isn’t here, but I have to keep reminding myself that if I were at the country house with him, I would not see very much of him there either. He is busy, busy, busy with his wood chopping, snow removal, and attending to home maintenance projects. This past week, since the masonry heater had cooled for a week while we were away, Attila began to empty the ash dump for the masonry heater. The ash dump is huge, and has not been cleaned out for over five years. By the end of last winter is was full, and interfering with a good burn in the heater. So Attila removed thirty or so buckets of fine ash, and feels he is only half finished the project. The rest will need to wait until spring, when the heating season is over, and the ashes have cooled.

Attila got up at 3:00 a.m. yesterday morning, to begin firing in the masonry heater, then he went back to bed for two hours. When he arose the firing was almost complete, so that he could close the dampers, turn on the electric heaters, and begin his journey to the little house in the city. He arrived here at the little house shortly before noon.

We had a quick bite to eat, we loaded the car with the gifts, and my baking, and I drove us out to Terra’s house for our Christmas get together. Shortly after we arrived Luna and Janus, the Grandbabies, and Bim the dog arrived. They were late because as they were driving along the highway, the back window suddenly exploded and shattered. No one was hurt, thankfully. They had to return home, secure the back window with plastic, then remove and load all of their gear into the family car, a much smaller vehicle. This occurrence was not preceded by any warning that the window was not sound, nor did it receive a blow, so the cause will remain unknown.

The Grandbabies, as ever, are delightful. Terra cooked a turkey dinner, which was fantastic. After dinner we retired to the living room and opened the gifts. It was a lot of fun, and the children seemed genuinely excited with their gifts. After an evening visiting, Attila and I headed back to the little house in the city, and retired for the night shortly after arriving home. Attila was exhausted all afternoon and evening, if he sat down for any length of time, he fell asleep. He was grateful to lie down at last!

This morning I arose very early and puttered about for a few hours, letting Attila sleep until he woke up on his own. He slept in until almost 8:00 a.m., which was a real treat for him. Then it was time to pack the car, in readiness for Attila’s drive home. He left shortly before noon, and called me four and half hours later to let me know that he had arrived safely. The roads had been clear and dry, no visibility problems, a sunny day. We only spoke a few minutes, as he was headed out to the wood shed with his ax, to prepare wood to fire the masonry heater.

Attila will return to the little house in the city for Christmas.

After Attila left this morning, Tank and I headed back to Terra’s house. I spent a pleasant afternoon there, chatting with my girls, and their husbands and friends, and the Grandbabies.

The gifts we gave the Grandbabies provided entertainment for all this morning. Imp received a baking set, and she baked cupcakes for the family. Elf received an Aquapod launcher, which they all had a great time with, launching pop bottles across the farm fields. Tink received a puppet tent, which was too complicated to assemble at Terra’s house, they needed to take it home to assemble it. We are hoping for a video of her first production.

I am back at the little house now, taking a quiet moment with the computer, and Mist sleeping in the chair beside me.

I has been a lovely weekend.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-1°C
Date: 7:00 AM EST Thursday 18 December 2014
Condition: Light Snow
Pressure: 101.5 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: -0.6°C
Dewpoint: -3.0°C
Humidity: 84%
Wind: NW 19 km/h
Wind Chill: -6

-3°C
Date: 5:00 PM EST Sunday 21 December 2014
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.8 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 19 km
Temperature: -2.8°C
Dewpoint: -6.6°C
Humidity: 75%
Wind: NE 7 km/h
Wind Chill: -6

Quote

“The universal brotherhood of man is our most precious possession.”
Mark Twain
1835 – 1910

[For most men in North America, although language at the time alluded to including all of the human species under the umbrella of “man”, the universal brotherhood really only included affluent white men, or in other cultures, affluent men of the ruling class. Mark Twain may have included “others” under the umbrella of “man”, and his personal use of “universal” may have been a valid adjective, but most men did not, and were not even aware that they did not.]

Underconsumers

Added Note: Fourteen years ago today I began keeping this journal! The very first entry, hand coded html, is here: Maggie’s very first blog entry.

As Attila was leaving for work this morning, and I was waving goodbye from the window, he held up a snow ball. A small amount of snow, or it could have been white ice, had accumulated on the windshield of the car. Snow is predicted here for Thursday, but should melt quickly as the temperature will be above freezing.

At the country house the leaves are not all down yet, so we have been putting off raking until they are all down, so that we only have to do it once. Tricky, because we have to get it raked after the last of the leaves fall, and before the snow sticks. Todays strong wind gusts are stripping the trees naked, so soon.

With the autumn leaves mostly gone, this is as far as the eye can see. It’s a small world, after all.
2013 autumn branches

On Saturday last we visited Luna, Janus, Imp, Elf, Tink, Benny, Bim, and Soot. Luna, our daughter, was getting ready for a Sunday photo shoot, as she is a freelance photographer. Janus had taken the weekend off work to install an air conditioner in their house, with the assistance of Lares, daughter Terra’s husband. Terra was busy building a LEGO four wheeler with Elf when we arrived. Imp, Elf, and Tink, the grandchildren, were in fine form being their wonderful selves. Benny and Bim, Luna’s dogs were enjoying a visit from Dash, Terra and Lare’s dog. The dogs all got on well but for one spat, which was quickly resolved. Soot the cat we saw little of, she doesn’t mix with the dogs when she can help it.

We had intended to drive home Saturday night, but were enjoying ourselves so much that we stayed the night. Janus cooked a super breakfast, of bacon wrapped in croissants, pancakes and maple syrup, decadent and delicious. This was after preparing, the night before, a melt in your mouth roast of beef, and home made french fries, which were served with cheese curds and gravy to create poutine. Attila was in heaven, as he eats a lot, and really enjoys his food; a pleasant byproduct of daily manual labour.

Our weekend was so relaxing that we did not remember to move our car, from the street in front of Luna’s house, into the driveway for the night. Two parking tickets awaited us on the car’s windshield, deposited there just after four in the morning. Our own fault, we were making rather merry. However, one of the tickets had the wrong license plate recorded on it, and so was cancelled on the spot, while speaking to the parking department on the telephone yesterday. The second ticket was paid online yesterday afternoon. Living in the country, one becomes unaccustomed to thinking about things like parking tickets. Urban life is so regulated!

Yesterday was a work day for me; it passed quickly and pleasantly. I had been concerned because my back has been quite stiff in the mornings, and the job is very physically demanding. An aspirin at breakfast and I sailed through the day with ease.

Since I am offered few hours, and so seldom work, there are usually many significant changes in the software used, every single time I go in. It is almost like starting a brand new job, every time, for just three or so hours; and then starting a brand new job the next time I go in, over and over and over again. It can be stressful when I work alone for the day, running the office by myself, because there is no way to find out what has been changed since the last time I worked. I have to “wing it”. Customers do not seem to appreciate the “excitement of discovery” when it comes to processing their purchases; can’t blame them.

It is amazing that a company can stay in business with this level of built in inefficiency. Still, the people at the top end are making a great living, and find that cutting hours for the people at the bottom of the food chain is the best way to keep the profit margin healthy. There are a legion of contract workers at the bottom, with no regular hours, can be fired at any time for no reason, on call six days a week every week of the year, with no benefits, no travel compensation, and no pension. The top dogs in the company call themselves good employers; they are the only ones making those kind of statements, at great expense in the media. Of course, they have regular hours, travel expenses, health benefits, and pensions; but they are a small minority.

When I am making my few purchases in this world, one of the considerations is how the company treats its employees. Does the company use contract workers? Does the company, if Canadian, employ Canadians? Does the company pay a living wage? More and more we are purchasing from small local companies, where this information is available in the community where the employees live and work. It seems hopeless that we can make any difference, but at least our consciences are clear.

Speaking of which, our beef arrived this past week. We purchased a side of beef from one of Terra’s neighbours, a farmer. The beef is grass fed, these are the cows that escaped their pasture to graze on Terra’s yard, and she herded and returned to their pasture. They lived happy lives, in a beautiful pasture, with a roofed shelter for inclement weather. The meat cost far more than that purchased in a grocery store, but we will save money elsewhere.

I think we could be considered “underconsumers”; just made that up, pleased with myself. A lot like underachievers, only generating less garbage. We are the very first, and the leading edge, of a new species: underconsumers!

Terra and Lares are thinking of raising their own chickens. That would be wonderful, and perhaps we can subsidize a few members of the flock as our own. Chickens raised in this way do not taste anything like the chicken meat purchased in a grocery store. Fresh eggs would be most welcome.

The curing of the masonry heater is now complete. We closed the damper for the first time in the five day long process. The heater, with one half-load firing a day, is now keeping the house warm enough to walk around in bare feet.

The half bushel of Macintosh apples are keeping well. Attila keeps a fresh pan of apple crisp on the counter. He uses a lot more sugar and fat in his baking than I do, so he eats most of what he bakes. I have been eating applesauce made from the Macintosh apples, which contains very little sugar, and no fat. And still, I am a little overweight, and Attila is not.

A gust of wind just blew by, and the hydro flickered. Yesterday a gust of wind did the same thing to hydro service. This is tiresome because it shuts down the computer, the microwave and range clocks, and the settings on the telephone; all of which need to be restarted or reset. Also, sometimes the telephone service disappears for a while when it rains. Country life, gotta love it.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

3°C
Date: 8:56 AM EDT Tuesday 22 October 2013
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.7 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 3.2°C
Dewpoint: 0.4°C
Humidity: 82%
Wind: SW 11 km/h

Quote

“If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. The free mind is not a barking dog, to be tethered on a ten-foot chain.”
Adlai E. Stevenson Jr.
1900 – 1965

The Visit

Luna, Janus, the Grandbabies Imp and Elf and Tink, and the dogs Bennie and Bim, have been here and gone. They stayed with us two nights; the second night was an extra bonus.

The night they arrived we had a campfire in the back yard, over which we cooked hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches. Imp and Elf enjoyed tending the fire with “poking sticks”. We stayed up late and had a very nice time.

The next day Attila was off to work at 5:00 a.m. I got up with Attila, and waited patiently for our visitors to awake, which was just after 8:30 a.m. We had breakfast, packed a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter into their van, and off we went on a day trip.

Our first stop of the day was to visit Attila at work. Attila enjoyed showing off the Grandbabies and showing them what he does all day. They got to meet the “boss”, who offered Imp a job, her first job offer! They also had a great time sitting on the tow motor, and watching a train go by. What northern town doesn’t have a train track running through it!

Attila and the Grandbabies at work.
Dscf2953 tow motor

After leaving Attila, our next stop was my Grandparents house. In the past it was the local Post Office, and General Store. All of that closed in the sixties, when the Post Office closed due to centralization. The “village” is now a “ghost town”, and the former store is frequently photographed, and displayed by artists, and also by trespassers, on the internet. Some people even boast about their illegal presence on the property.

My Grandmother passed away in 1976, and my Grandfather in 1984. Their house passed to my Mom and her sisters. Both of my Aunts have passed away, and now the property belongs to my Mom and my Uncle (my Mom’s brother-in-law). They do not see eye-to-eye about the property, both holding it dear. The upshot is that we Grandchildren visit the house, some stay for short periods of time, but no one maintains the buildings. My sister spends time with her husband cutting the “grass” around the buildings, and checking on it, for my mother. Other than that, the building sits empty, and it is broken into several times a year by partying young people, curious day-trippers, and antique hunters. Almost all of my Grandparents belongings have been stolen. The locks are crow-barred off within weeks of installation.

I tried to purchase the property from my Uncle and my Mom, with the intention of maintaining the buildings. It was my hearts desire. It is close enough to Attila’s work place that he could have commuted from the location. But neither were seriously interested in selling. No means no, so Attila and I have moved on. When I join my Grandparents in the great beyond, I can tell them I tried.

When I was very, very young, I was convinced that my Grandparent’s house was heaven, literally. All the descriptions of heaven that were provided at Sunday school fit, that is how I knew! I can still feel the love there, as can all the Grandchildren. When I step onto that property I am immersed in love and acceptance. There is no other place on planet earth where I feel this way; it is a unique place in my life. And although my Grandparents have been gone a very long time, I can still feel their presence, and their love, in that place.

I wanted the Grandbabies to see the house, to be present where that loving energy exists, before it begins to collapse. I wanted them to see it before they leave Canada for England. It is where their Great Great Grandparents lived and died, it is where their Great Grandmother grew up, it is where their Grandmother was happiest in this world, and it is where their Mother got to meet her Great Grandparents, and spend time with her Great Grandfather, making maple syrup the old way, playing at his knee. It is a place where five generations of memories meet, all of them happy.

Granny’s House. Home, Post Office, General Store… heaven! Generations Three, Four and Five visit; I am Generation Three, taking the picture.
DSCF3079 grannys house

We walked around the building, taking pictures, sharing memories. Then in we went. The interior is now almost empty. In the last few months someone broke in and stole my Grandmother’s refrigerator, which still worked after more than sixty years, and her freezer. The dining room set was stolen long ago, as was the pedal sewing machine, which my Grandmother used to make quilts, among them a Centennial Quilt for the Canada’s 100th Birthday. The piano is still there. The Grandbabies enjoyed playing at the piano, and Luna gave it a whirl as well. The familiar echo filled the house with memories. I remember that my sister loved to play that piano when she was little, she always wanted to take lessons; she never did.

I think the visit was memorable for the Grandbabies, Luna, and Janus. It was for me. I think my Grandmother would have been pleased. She would also have liked that the oldest Grandbaby Imp, has her middle name, after her, and a relative on Janus side of the family.

Next we headed to Harriet’s cottage on the lake. The Grandbabies played in the shallow water, on the dock, and in the paddle boat. This beach too has seen generations of my family. We have a picture of my Grandfather and Aunt standing on this beach in the 1940s. Harriet’s property was not previously owned by the family though. My Great Grandfather, my Grandfather and Great Uncles, owned farm fields that were on lakefront, on another nearby lake. That other lake is where we played as children. The beach I played on as a child has been sold out of the family.

Luna, Janus, Imp and Tink on the dock, and Elf in the paddle boat; at Harriet’s cottage.
DSCF3105 Luna and family

We had our peanut butter sandwich picnic on Harriet’s beach, and had a lovely time. Janus took all three Grandbabies in the paddle boat, on an excursion to the island near the cottage. They got to climb onto the island and explore, which looked like a lot of fun.

The voyage to the island!
Dscf3141 to the island
How Tink sees me. Tink demands the camera, and takes my picture; she is three years old.
DSCF320 grandma

Then we all climbed into the van and headed for home.

On the second night we had another campfire, but did not stay up quite so late. Janus bought some “jiffy pop” popcorn to cook over the open fire. We commented on the false use of the adjective “jiffy”, because it took a very long time for that popcorn to pop. Janus cooked it to perfection though, and we all enjoyed it.

The next morning Attila left for work at 5:00 a.m. Tink had awakened while he was getting ready for work, so Luna woke up and comforted her back to sleep. When I arose Luna was sitting in the living room reading a book. We had a leisurely breakfast, and then the packing began. Soon they were backing out of the driveway and waving goodbye.

What trip is accomplished without leaving something behind! This trip Elf’s pillow was forgotten, as were Imp and Tink’s sweatshirt jackets.

It was a wonderful visit.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

14°C
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 14.3°C
Dewpoint: 8.8°C
Humidity: 69%
Wind: NNW 18 gust 30 km/h

Quote

“What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined… to strengthen each other… to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories.”
George Eliot
1819 – 1880