Sunday, 30 October 2011


By popular demand - 2011's Jack o' Lantern. Design by the GrandDaughter. Execution by Grama. Casualties - one paring knife, unfortunately Grandpa's favourite.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Of Friends and Luck

I'm a lucky person. Really, really lucky. Good health, healthy children with good jobs, enough money. But one of the things I appreciate the most among all these blessings is good friends. The mark of a wonderful friend, for me, is that you can be apart for long periods and when you get back together you just mesh. I have a group of women with whom I go all the way back to public school. I have (and my husband and I have) couples we have known since we were undergraduates. We go on occasional jaunts as a group and have a wonderful time. Long distance friends, but you know they are there.

Today I had lunch with such a friend. When I try and figure it out, I think it has been at least four years since I've seen her - she and her husband have been working abroad. We met in the parking lot of the lunch place, started talking as we walked in, and kept right at it for two hours, first the catching up and then just a splendid conversation. The kids, the grand kids (we both forgot to bring a picture), trashing our husbands, clothes, jobs ....... and what I enjoy so much about this friend, the philosophy of living well and happily. On a dull, end of October day, it is sunshine to be with her.

Next week I am planning to go to the city to see another long distance friend who will be there for a few days' holiday, a former house mate from university. It will be a meeting with the same kind of joy. We have a horrible joke left over from being undergraduates that still makes us laugh. We have grandchildren growing up fast. We have white hair and wrinkles and squeaky knees and it all matters not one bit. As soon as we get together, years and wrinkles vanish.

One of the most miserable times in my life was watching my aunt, my father's older sister, descend into a dementia where she lost track of time. When she was in her eighties and still active and agile of mind and body, she moved from my childhood home town of Windsor up here to eastern Ontario to be with my father. She said, sadly, that her friends were mostly all sick or dead. She needed company and support and she made new friends here and loved her new life. But ten years later when the dementia hit, all she wanted was to go back home and see her friends, 'the girls' as she called them. When I would go to the nursing home we had had to put her in, I would find her packing, sometimes with her hat and coat on, ready for me to take her home. It was sad.

When you are growing up and as a young adult, friends are probably the most important element of your life. If you get married, you have to integrate your and your spouse's social circles. Then you have kids yourself and a demanding job and get involved with sports or a hobby and your socializing tends to be inside that range. If you don't marry, a network of friends remains very important and grows. In my experience, it becomes harder to make new friends the farther along in life you are. Or it used to be. One of the things I value most about the blogging world is the virtual friends I have made here. Although I have grandpa bloggers and grandma bloggers that I visit regularly, most of the online world where I hang out is peopled with women the age of my daughters, women raising kids and working and going to school and sometimes all three at once. Even though we might never meet over lunch and giggle, this world has become very important for me.

The older you get, in my experience, the faster things change. The 'mommyblogger' network I was enmeshed in in 2007 has mutated, the way people blog has changed a lot as new apps and software allow more photos, instaposts and other embellishments. There are a lot more formal networks, commercial loaded blogs and some quite pernicious rating sites to pull writers attention in specific ways. A lot of the bloggers whom I first connected with have left, or changed their focus. It's my great and good luck that the people I feel the most connected with are still around in some form or another.

And in this world, it's easy to make new friends.

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Mouse will Play

When my husband is around I eat three meals a day at regular times, on a schedule he likes to follow, get up and go to bed ditto, and plan my week around his plans and my meeting list. When he is away, as he has been this week, it is quite an indulgence not to work or eat to a plan. I have been working away at losing some weight, and tried out the 'only eat when you are hungry' method this week. I dropped about a pound and a half - hope it stays off - and passed a benchmark.

On Thursdays I go to a line dancing class. This Thursday I was running late so I grabbed out a pair of cords that just came out of summer storage, threw them on (well, with other clothes, yes) and hurried to my class. About half way through, I tripped on the hem of the pants and realized that they are loose enough around the waist that they had slipped down and the hems were trailing on the floor. I guess I am going to have to wear a belt - and that my belts might even go around me again. Benchmark. Ta da!

The line dancing class is a lot of fun. Our instructor is a Francophone woman with a great sense of humour and an equally great love of country music and Anne Murray. Yesterday we learned a longish series of steps (she paces out the pattern, we practice it and then she puts fairly slow music on and we do the steps. If we have the pattern down, we get faster music and do it again. Yesterday, with a big grin, she told us that the music was really fast. And it was. Luckily, this was not the place where my pants slipped down or they would still be scraping me off the church hall floor. We were all groaning at the end of the class, but they were good groans.

My feet are going to cost me a lot of money. I spent my childhood and youth in swimming pools, ending up as a swimming instructor, and along the way I acquired toenail fungus, big time. My doctor and chiropodist have both worked on the fungus, but the best they could do has not eradicated it. That and the fashion for pointy toed shoes (and my vanity) as a young woman have made a real mess of my toenails. And it is no longer possible to cut them properly on my own. So I booked an appointment with a podiatrist. I am going to have four nails surgically removed at a fairly steep price, but this guy also xrayed my feet, was most dismayed at the results and is urging me to get orthotic insoles. Also expensive. JG says I should have expected this as they sell the orthotics, but I will try almost anything that will improve my ability to walk distances. My credit card was steaming when I walked out of there. And I will have to wear lace-up sports shoes. Snarl. I guess vanity is not yet dead in me.

Why is it that my toenails and the floor are a lot farther away than they used to be. And gravity is heavier. I'm in another photo group and the prompt for this last week has been 'up from below'. I thought of one very interesting thing to do, but it requires me to lie on my back on the living room floor and getting up from there is not simple. Nothing to hang on to. I watch Herself effortlessly swing her feet up over her head and pull herself up into a tree, and remember when I used to be able to do that. Herself was amused to tell me that she and her daddy went to the park and he tried to pull himself up into a tree the same way and, she giggled, got stuck. Kids can be really hard-hearted sometimes.

My week of no schedule is over and I must now make the house look as if it has been lived in. I did remove almost eight pounds of surplus paper from my office. Having a baby of the same weight did not take as long.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Throwing Out Stuff

I put up a Facebook update earlier today that I was tackling a 7" (12 cm, I think, maybe) stack of paper to be filed. I now have it down 5" more or less. From time to time I have posted Good Resolutions about cleaning my office; I have even sort of done it from time to time. But I have a horrible time throwing out documents and good articles and booklets about subjects that interest me, not to mention any scrap of material from a trip we have taken and the third to twenty third photographs of some gorgeous piece of scenery. Well, there only used to be four or five when I used film.

I swear this time it will be different! I am winding up fourteen years of involvement with a community board that has taken a lot of my time and generated a lot (a dead woodlot) of paper. I am tossing the contents of binders, eliminating file folders and generally keeping only the few things where I still have a specific task to do. One big carrier bag of paper has already gone to the paper recycle at the dump, and there may be two more by tomorrow's open dump time.

A lot of people, I think, are pack rats au fond. Most little kids are, for starters. Herself, my age eight grand kid, keeps all sorts of bits and pieces. A couple of weeks ago she went home with a snakeskin, some lovely pieces of bark and a bunch of coloured leaves too bright to resist. Her bedroom is stuffed with stuff, a lot of it stuffed toys but also ornaments, hair clips, scarves, boxes and books. She has her birch bark stock stored in our screen porch and two boxes of varied art supplies in my office. My husband is a life long, charter, pack rat. When he runs out of room to keep his stuff, he builds another building in which to store it. A lot of his stuff is big, motorized and noisy but he also keeps piles of hardwood and softwood, various lengths of pipe and iron and steel, and cupboards and shelves both in the house and in the barn full of nails and screws and all sorts of strange objects that might even come in useful some day, including a big pile of empty coffee cans to put the bits into.

Both of my daughters keep lots and lots of stuff. I was hanging my clothes in the spare room closet last Thursday, settling in at the ED's place for a few days of child minding, when I looked up at the closet shelf and saw a big Tupperware container labelled "Letters from Mom". Since it said 'from Mom' and that is me, I looked in and this 2' x 3' container was full almost to the top with letters, cards and postcards covered in my writing. (Confession time - I have a file drawer that is about half filled with letters from MY mother and from our daughters.) The YD keeps books. Shelves and shelves and shelves full. I helped her move them once when she was a penniless undergraduate, but there are a lot more these days. She would need two strong men and a van with very good springs. (Confession - I have just about as many, some still in boxes from when we moved fifteen years ago.)

So many of us keep stuff. There is so much that seems precious, that evokes memory, that might someday be the very thing you need. In fact my husband swears that whenever (unlikely as this is) he gets rid of something, that something turns out to be exactly what he needs a short time later. Maybe. But I find the things that I don't 'need' and will never need are the ones that are hardest to toss.

When I finally managed to get my hair cut short as a girl, my mother kept a braid. When I decided that my little daughters' hair had to be cut short before I went crazy, my mother asked for the braids and kept them, too. I thought she was nuts, at the time, but she got a frame and put all three braids into it. Since her death, the frame sits on the top of the cupboard here in the office. I dust it and think about her. The grand daughter assured me this weekend that when she decides to cut her hair again, she will give me a braid to put in with the others. Sometimes I worry that the next step will be a brooch made out of the dear departed's hair and I will turn into Queen Victoria.The braid in the middle is mine, the ED's is on the right, the YD's on the left.

The latest - I cleaned out my closet and discarded a whole bunch of stuff. In the process I found a handkerchief that my grandmother had made, a white on white appliqué of her name on fine linen. I kept it. Of course. I am sure Herself, in the process of time, will treasure it because the big sorting out will be done by my long suffering daughters after I am gone.

Sorry girls.
I've babbled about this before. See: 

Saturday, 15 October 2011

A Day in the City

I have just renamed Little Stuff. Any kid who can climb twenty feet into a tree is not Little any more. I am presently referring to her as Herself, and hoping to come up with something better.

I am looking after the grandkid this weekend, her parents having to go to an event in Toronto. I have been at it for two days now, in fact, mostly getting Herself from place to place -- to school, to gym class, to shop for a Hallowe'en costume -- and allowing her to do all sorts of stuff that her very organized and structured mother would probably not allow.

This afternoon we went to the park to feed the birds and get some fresh air. Boy, was the air ever fresh. There is half a gale blowing and the temperature is dropping and the wind keeps blowing in rain clouds. Anyway, the rain and the wind had a lot of birds on the ground and the feeding opportunities were good. Herself had brought along a loaf of French bread that had got a bit mouldy and it proved very popular. In fact, outside this circle of feeding geese was another of squawking, begging gulls. Herself refused to feed the gulls, saying that they were all spoiled. An occasional squirrel crept through the mass of honkers -- they did get fed and most of them will take a peanut from Herself's hand.

After she disposed of most of the edibles, Herself set out on a project that involved climbing all the scalable trees in one corner of the park. Her strength level is very high, and she can shimmy up a tree trunk of the appropriate size in no time at all. Then she swings up through the branches until she gets to the top of what will bear her weight, sits and admires the view for a bit and swings down again. On to the next tree and up she goes. She did this for the best part of an hour without showing any sign of tiring. (I took a lot of photos and may add more later but I am on the household Mac and the only way I can figure out how to shrink the photos is by emailing them to myself. So, later.)

I can't resist adding one more shot, however. As well as minding the kid, the babysitter has to deal with a household full of animals. There is the tortoise who woke me up last night banging around in his habitat at midnight, there is Leo the lung fish, Charlotte Anne the guinea pig, Charmy the leopard gecko (belongs to Herself's brother, in truth, but when brother left for university, somehow Charmy stayed home.) and last, but by no means least, Miso. Who is a cat. Miso loves bags, of any sort. He loves my suitcase a lot, but I have learned to leave my door shut. This afternoon as we left for the park, this is where Miso was spending the afternoon.

He was still there when we got back, but sometime in the interim he had got out of the grocery bag pile long enough to throw up on the hall floor. Charlotte Anne's cage needs cleaning in the worst way. Luckily Leo and Charmy are self sustaining over one weekend. Charmy, when he has to be fed, requires live crickets dusted with vitamin powder. I am not sure what Leo requires, just that he does not need it very often.

Herself, on the other hand, requires a lot of stoking. She won a horrible sugary ring as a prize at her gym class and turned her mouth, teeth and tongue bright blue while consuming it. And the shop where we bought the bits and pieces for her costume gave her a loot bag as a bonus, a loot bag that contained a Hallowe'en themed noisemaker, the kind that unrolls and makes an unlovely blat. Herself has been blowing it. A lot.

Grama is still smiling, but ............... In truth, I love looking after Herself. She described the geese this afternoon as 'aggressive'. And her laugh would melt a heart of stone, let alone mine.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Tasty Thoughts

I got an Ethan Allen catalogue in the mail yesterday. (Once, feeling momentarily affluent, we bought a dresser there. When a handle broke, EA replaced it and started to send us all these glossy catalogues.) The shiny and expensively printed booklet was full of ornate furniture and home decorations, displayed with handsome people in evening dress draped over some of them. Mirrored chests, curlicues, turned legs, brocade bed covers, huge abstract art and artefacts. Not. My. Taste. No, not at all. I tend more to plain wood, cherry for choice, with maybe a tiny ornamentation and overstuffed comfy leather wing chairs. Lots of lamps, placed so that reading is easy. Very few display objects, most of them gifts, such as a digital picture frame. Overly ornate and decorated makes me slightly crazy, not to mention the extra care and cleaning.

My take on clothes is similar. When I open the paper and see the latest in spring fashions displayed on models who make toothpicks look plump, my reaction is disbelief. Crotch level skirt, all ruffles. Droopy sweater with arms that hang below the fingers and some kind of hanging front. Not. Wearable. No, not by any ordinary human being who has to do things like write, cook or drive. Or even sit in comfort.

I am also repelled by hairstyles that, in my opinion, are not styled. Long hair, almost exclusively, either streeling over the shoulders or tied back inadequately so that hair has to be pushed out of the face, just puzzles me. You manage this hair with a baby? Out in the wind? You keep it out of the stock pot? Not. Likely. No, not practical and also, not pretty. It makes women with long faces look like horses and women with round faces look even worse than that.

I believe taste is formed both by the family and by the generation in which a person is born. I am a 'war baby', born in 1942 and my taste is probably partly attributable to my mother*, who liked clean lines and classic clothing, and to the style of the late forties and fifties, when I was an impressionable kid. I was brought up to dress 'like a lady' and regard an easily cleaned house as a blessing. While I have extensively revised what my mother thought these standards meant (I wear trousers and jeans almost exclusively, even though the standards of the fifties relegated the latter to gardening only and my mother insisted on skirts in public, even for twelve-year-olds), I still judge by similar values. Revealing a lot of cleavage in a business setting or looking like you and your hair just got out of bed together seem to me bad taste. Making dust-catching vignettes all over the house is a waste of time and effort. I may be a stuffed dinosaur, at that, or stuffy, anyway.

What's your idea of good taste and tasteful dressing? 

* My mother in full 'lawyer's wife' costume. At my wedding reception, in fact.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Days of Gold

 Er, Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, that is. We had the big turkey dinner yesterday, in weather so warm that I had all the windows open. This is unusual for this part of eastern Ontario: there have been years when we had snow. But yesterday was glorious and so was today and so tomorrow is forecast to be. Even though the colour is not marvellous this year - too dry in August and September.

 The red maples in front of our house are just about as bright as we have anywhere in our bush. Having rushed madly about doing turkey and fixings yesterday, today I put everything away and then turned the oven on to self-clean and escaped outside. JG and I went roaming around the place, he introducing me to various bits of trail that he has cleared out this summer, mostly very bumpy bits going up or down or sideways. But in spite of the lack of red, all of the bush is very beautiful. A lot of the leaves are already down and that wonderful scent of dry leaves rose everywhere we went.

This shot is typical of what the woods looked like today. If you look carefully you can see two tire tracks through the leaves. That's the trail, in fact that is one of the better parts of the off road network we have maintained over the years. You can see a lot of smaller diameter trunks. Some of them are saplings and a few are older, ironwood and such, that will live under the canopy but do not thrive and therefore grow very slowly. JG and a couple of his friends are doing an improvement cut in this part - turning damaged trees into firewood.

As you can see, this was what my family calls a 'blue' day - sky so glaringly cerulean that you seem to be suspended in light and space. This kind of weather is rare in October, when you are more likely to get the 'smokey hills' of the infamous poem we all had to learn in grade school.

Along the line of smokey hills the crimson forest stands,
And all the day the blue jay calls throughout the autumn lands.

There is more, but I will spare you. I did link it to the poem, just in case you want the rest of it.

In fact, the jays are not calling at present, because their beaks are stuffed full with either corn or sunflower seeds that they are abstracting in quantity from the bird feeder and the deer feeding station and stuffing into other locations to eat this winter.

When we got back to the house, most of the odour of burnt turkey fat had dissipated and we ordered in pizza for supper. Tomorrow we have another Thanksgiving feast to attend.

I seem to myself to be writing very dull and somewhat didactic posts. Apologies to all of you who have found me better fun in the past. I am hoping to get back into the groove again soon.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Grumping my way through my day

It has been one of those days. Rain, fog and dull light for one thing, not a propitious start. A meeting that went on too long and where nothing solid seemed to get accomplished. Lunch at our post meeting restaurant where we ordered soup that sounded wonderful and wasn't. More rain.
Then I went into my shopping town to get groceries and run errands. There are repairs being carried out on the highway that borders the town. Grooved pavement, ledges and bumps, verges masses of mud and pylons everywhere. I got through that and navigated off into the heart of down town where my bank crouches amid inadequate parking and too much traffic. Lo and behold, the bank parking lot is under construction and so is the street beside it. I had to park several blocks away and trek back through the mud and machinery. And the rain.
So befuddled was I by all this that I drove almost back to the highway before I remembered that I had to return my library books -- the library also being right down town. Reverse. Back into the scrum.
Having finally torn myself away from the library, the next job was the groceries. My grocery store parking lot was ALSO all torn up and under construction. I had to park on the far side and plod back through the muck and machinery again.
The grocery store is also undergoing a massive renovation. No one can find anything, making for lots of grumpy customers moving slowly along looking for stuff or standing in the middle of the aisle looking for stuff. The new layout has separated the lactose free milk from the rest of the milk by the length of the aisle and rejigged all the staples. The spice I wanted wasn't there. The soup I wanted wasn't there. And after struggling through all of this I had to hump the groceries back across the whole rain-swept parking lot. And go back to get wine - in Ontario you have to buy wine at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario store.
Then to the pharmacy for some stuff for JG that they didn't have. Then to pick up some esoteric part for a chain saw that had, by some miracle, just come in by the courier truck. Then I got to go home through ever thickening mist.
Oh, yeah, one of my credit cards got rejected. I do not know why and I have not had the strength to phone yet. That I have on the list for tomorrow.
What do you do after a day like that? I curled up in my reclining chair with a blankie and dozed. The stalwart man I married started supper and made the salads, or I would still be there.
It is supposed to rain again tomorrow.

Oh, yeah ......... the stockmarket had a bad day too.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Jury Is Still Out

I'm playing with the new blogger layouts - am still not sure whether I like it. And placing photos is still confusing me. What do you think?

Added Monday - I have reverted. I think the new style still has too many bugs in it. Thanks, commenters!