Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Parties Past and Present

Four o'clock and already the sun is hanging just above the horizon, being quickly pulled down by the dastardly hands of winter. It is a far cry from where it was 6 months, when, instead of pyjamas and hot chocolate, we were dressed in shorts and drinking an icy cold drink. It seems like it was an age ago.

I'm still dragged down by my cold, but on the positive side, Spike is getting better at bringing me a tissue… I should be in pretty good shape by tomorrow - New Years Eve! At least I hope so. Worst comes to worst I'll sit in-state and let everyone else do the work, of which there will be very little since I'm ordering Chinese food for the bulk of the meal.

Yesterday was our 4th year anniversary of retirement, and I didn't even feel well enough to pop open the bottle of bubbles that we had chilling in the fridge. Now that's sick! (not sick in the newfangled slang way that means really good).

I did drag myself out to the grocery store with Carm - I wanted to make sure we had a bag of proper Ruffles chips as I THINK one of my guests likes chips just a bit, but never has them because she is on a constant diet - well! I'm pretty sure New Years Eve will constitute enough reason to have a little cheat! I even got sour cream to make the good old standby chip dip: sour cream & onion soup mix. Hey there 70s!

Speaking of 70s, I remember the feasts that mom would leave Kirsten and a friend when she and dad left for their party. Starting when I was 12 and Kirsten 7 - mom would let me have a friend over (Jackie Porter), and would lay out a table with all manner of junk food. Chips, jello, cheesies, pop and goodness knows what else would adorn the little brown card table set up in the family room.  We'd stagger from the sofa to the card table, little cups of coke or rootbeer sloshing (not on the rug of course). Instead of a booze hangover, I'd feel awful the next day from such awful food and lack of sleep. It became my tradition to overeat and in later years, over drink, to bring in the new year. The food got better, but excess and late nights were still required. It seemed like it might be good luck to feel so rotten the first day of the year - kinda like it was the worst I was going to feel all year, so it was better to just get it over with.

I wonder if I'll wear a party dress tomorrow night? In years past, I've worn all manner of crazy dresses on New Years - old bridesmaids dresses are da bomb. I have a beautiful gold shot-silk dress that I may just dig out of the closet. Or jeans. Or pyjamas. Yea! That's the ticket - I'll make it a pyjama party :-)

Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to. ~Bill Vaughan

Monday, December 29, 2014

Alight at Night

I’ve been laying low the last few days, fighting a cold that has created a mountain of tissue and nights of loud snoring. I fall asleep with a tissue in my hand and wake up with it still tightly clutched.


Last night I roused myself up out of bed to celebrate of my niece Juliette’s birthday. My family met up at Upper Canada Village to experience the Alight at Night festival that is held every year in December and the first few days of January. The work to create this fantastical wonderland is started the day after thanksgiving (Ernie, one of the park wardens where we camp every summer, is part of this work crew).


We were expecting some lights. I haven’t mentioned it lately, but I LOVE Christmas lights – they may actually be my favourite thing of the season. We were expecting it to be pretty with some lights.

Well… there weren’t some lights… there were 1.2 MILLION lights. They seemed to frost every surface, outline every building, and dangle from every tree. I was beyond happy.

The buildings were wrapped in white lights. The trees were encircled with glittering lights of every colour: white, yellow, red, green blue, multi colour. There were lights on the fences and lights on the street signs. There were lights on the horse wagons and lights on the Ferris wheel. There were even lights on the little train we rode.


There were lights everywhere! It was beyond what I had imagined. Even though I was chilled to the bone, I was happy to be there.


After a brief walk around we got in line for a horse wagon ride. Since we arrived as soon as the gates opened we didn’t have to wait long. The horses took us on a loop of the village, letting us get a glimpse of every building and tree that had been iced with light.


After getting off where we started, we wound our way through lit streets to the Ferris wheel that towered against the sky. Erik (my nephew) thought it should be big enough to touch the moon which was hanging in the sky just over it. Thankfully it wasn’t even close to being that tall... I have no great love of heights (read petrified), but wanted to see the village from the high vantage point, so climbed aboard and clung onto Carm with threats of murder if he rocked the boat. As we got nearer to the top, I couldn’t help but forget my fears as the colourful village lay at my feet. I was clinging too much to get a photo from that height, plus my hands were so cold I figured I might drop my lens cap.


Steaming mugs of hot chocolate warmed our frozen hands, then more walking. More lights. Train ride (2km!). Into the car with its lovely heated seats for the drive home. The family followed us back to our place for a simple meal of frozen pizza (thankfully thawed, although they may have re-frozen on their way down – we were all that cold). Then birthday cake to celebrate Juliette.


All in all a fine day :-) With lights – did I mention the lights?


Let us not curse the darkness. Let us kindle little lights. ~Dada Vaswani

Friday, December 26, 2014

Green Christmas

It was a green Christmas this year, with temperatures above zero for the last few days. On Boxing day we had patches of sun, which were a real treat.


Usually on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day we watch the Sound of Music, so after supper (roast beef & yorkshire pudding), I cued up the PVR. I had recorded the movie a few weeks ago and was pleased with my foresight. No so fast Von Trapp… it seems a stage version had replaced the original movie so I was out of luck. I was a tiny bit peeved that Shaw would get their schedule so wrong. That will teach me to verify…

Christmas Day I woke up with a sore throat and stuffed nose - drat. It has been over 4 years since my last cold, but I figure since I've been eating so poorly lately my immune system isn't up to scratch. I soldiered on through our festivities, being careful not to get too close to anyone - do you know how difficult that is!

There were lots of kids this year - some Great nieces and nephews, and my brother's kids. A bunch of cute kids.

We spent the day with Carm's family, then rushed back home to let the dogs out, feed everyone, and rush back to the city to Mom & Dads - a typical busy Christmas Day. Spike came with us to M&D's which he enjoyed immensely - any chance to do a trick and earn a treat (turkey!) is pretty good fun in his mind. Add in all the attention he got from friends Kenda & Ann and he was in heaven. By the time bedtime came around though, he was ready to go home and telling us in no uncertain terms that it was time. The dog may indeed run our lives. (but he is so cute, how can I say no?).

I dragged my camera from place to place but only took a photo of our property to compare against last year.

Do you ever have moments when you wonder "is this it"? After the long story from the other day, this is a short something that tried to capture a moment.


"the mashed potatoes are good".

"yes, so is the roast. I don't remember one ever tasting so good."

His voice faded out as he bent his head back down. His fork went in and out of his mouth. She looked around the table; it was all dressed up for Christmas dinner, as if they were having company, but it was just the two of them, like always. She felt like she was caught in some endless loop of triviality; nothing important ever happened. Here she was, in her fifties, (she wondered how that happened), yet nothing had changed for decades. Even the decorations on the table hadn't changed in all those years.

I need some excitement, she thought to herself, pondering what form that might take. A few options popped into her mind: a move to a new locale; going back to school to learn some scintillating topic; her mind stalled. With the realization that there was nothing that appealed to her more than the life she was already living, she lifted her fork to her mouth. I'm the kind of person that doesn't need adventure, she told herself firmly.

"the Yorkshire pudding is the best it's ever been."

He raised his eyes to her and nodded, unaware that anything had just happened. Everyday life slipped back around her shoulders like a comforting blanket and she felt normal again.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Casa Musica–A Christmas Story (almost)


AngelChristmasGraphicsFairyThis story is a re-write of the first short story that I wrote. I tried developing the character a bit more and also fleshed it out (a lot more). At almost 2000 words, this is the longest anything that I’ve written to date. It could use more polishing (and I’ve done some this morning), but I wanted to post it today as it is slightly Christmasy (ever so slightly). I wrote it as a story about hope and the impact that we have on each other’s lives. I hope you enjoy it, and welcome any criticism you can throw at me!!!


The dingy fabric walls of his cubicle felt like they were closing in on him as he struggled to keep his mind on the endless pile of paperwork. Peter stared blankly at the paper in front of him, trying to comprehend what was written, but the words blurred in and out of focus. Hoping to find solace, at least for a moment, he looked up from his desk to the photographs pinned to the wall in front of him. None came.

The ringing of the phone penetrated the fog in his head. "Hello... oh, hi Mom… no, I'm fine. Don't worry." and hung up the phone with a heavy sigh before trying to get back to work.

A co-worker stuck his head through the doorway asking for the results of yesterday's drudgery. Peter handed him a packet and sighed at the sight of the receding back of his co-worker rushing away. He couldn't get the feeling out of his head that he was slowly turning invisible and at times wished that he was. He reached into the drawer beside him for a few cookies. The surge of sugar lifted his spirits for only a moment before dropping him back down into the fog that was threatening to engulf him.

Peter swept the crumbs into the garbage bin, his eyes briefly resting on the photos again. He hadn't answered his phone at home for days and wondered if it had been his mother trying to call, that would explain the unusual call at work. He shook his head and reached for the next pile of papers. Hunching over them, he tried to keep going, but all he could do was read the same paragraph over and over, comprehension failing him. The rest of the day dragged by, each moment seeming to last an eternity; he desperately wanted to curl into a ball under his desk and disappear from his office, no, disappear from life. No one came into his office to relieve the tedium of his dark thoughts and he wasn't sure if that was good or bad.

When he could stand it no more, he slipped out of the office, sure that no one would miss him. Hanging tightly to the overhead rail on the bus, he tried to make eye contact with a fellow traveller but when the woman turned away, his felt himself shrivel. Getting off the bus his feet felt encased in cement, and the all too familiar grey fog reached out to suffocate him as he trudged down the crumbling sidewalk to his apartment.

He set his keys down and leaned back against the closed door. He wanted to collapse on the spot, but conjured up the will to keep moving. One foot after the other, he moved through his apartment, first stopping to turn on the stereo with his favourite music. He waited for the music to uplift him. It didn't. He delusory tried singing along but it seemed like too much effort so he switched it off. And made up his mind.

Head down and shoulders slumped he walked into the bathroom and flipped on the light. Harsh light illuminated the stark room.  With his hands on both sides of the sink he studied himself in the mirror. I can't do this anymore, I just can't go on, he said to himself, and opened the medicine cabinet. Reaching inside he pulled out a bottle of pills and was surprised to see a book of matches fall from the shelf, he couldn't remember keeping matches there. When he picked them up to put them back, he saw they were from Casa Musica, the restaurant that was once his second home.

Peter stood stock still, looking from the pills to the matchbook.

"Yes. One last time then." he murmured to himself, setting the pills on the edge of the sink and stuffing the matchbook into his pocket.

Breathing deeply to gather his nerve, he sat in his car staring at the front door of the restaurant. The effort seemed too great. Finally, with a great heave of will power, he climbed out of the car and started walking to the restaurant. His limbs felt heavy with the burden of his depression, but Peter kept his eye on the door and kept moving until he was inside.

He stood for a moment while his eyes adjusted to the light, and didn't have to wait long for the waitress to see him.

"Welcome! We haven't seen you for a while. I'll sit you right here in the thick of things.", and she bustled away, the cheerful greeting leaving him feeling slightly out of balance.

He seated himself and started looking around. It was busy and there seemed to be something happening on the patio. He heard music and thought he could detect the sound of people singing. A slight smile caressed his lips as the waitress brought his meal. It was as good as he remembered causing him to wonder why he hadn't returned for so long.

Leaning back in his chair, he wiped the last of his meal from his lips. He had been watching the party on the patio through the window and thought he would take a peek through the door.

"Is this a private party?" he queried the red-haired woman who had just stepped past him.
She turned and looked at him with a cheerful smile. "No. Come on out, it's lots of fun".

His breath caught in his throat, it was the first friendly thing he'd heard in ages. He stepped through the door and turned toward the people in charge of the karaoke machine. Tentatively, he asked if he might have a go. The two men conferred and handed him a paper to write down his name and music choice.

He didn't even have to think about it, and wrote down "Come Sail Away" by Styx. It was like an anthem to him with its chorus of ‘carrying on’.

Standing by the wall waiting his turn he wondered if he was crazy for even trying. He'd always wanted to be a performer, it was his dream, but he'd never had the nerve. Tonight was different. He felt this was his last chance at life.

He stepped up to the mike and looked around. Everyone was turned away, talking and eating. As long as they don't laugh, I'll be okay, he thought to himself. As the first bars of the song rang out, he closed his eyes and sang, with all the feeling he could muster.

"I'm sailing away, set an open course for the virgin sea I've got to be free, free to face the life that's ahead of me On board, I'm the captain, so climb aboard We'll search for tomorrow on every shore And I'll try, oh Lord, I'll try to carry on"

As the last notes were sung, he opened his eyes, not expecting to see peoples faces smiling back at him. Putting the mike down, blinked his eyes a few time to make sure it was real - each smile seemed like a life preserver thrown to him just as he was about to go under. With a flicker of hope rising in his chest he choked back emotion he made his way to the door, and as he passed the red-haired woman she said she hoped he'd come back again, and that maybe next time they could talk. He smiled back at her and nodded his head, not trusting his voice. His steps seemed lighter as he walked to his car, a faint glimmer of a smile flirting with his lips.

With the door to his apartment safely closed behind him, he walking straight to the bathroom and picked up the pill bottle that was still sitting on the side of the sink - with shaking hands he put it back into the cabinet and turned back to the living room. As he sat down on the sofa he felt the matchbook in his pocket and stood back up to remove it; as he was putting the talisman down on the bookshelf, the sensuous curves of his guitar caught his eye.  He picked it up, savouring the feel of weight and warm wood in his hands and tentatively strummed a chord, he took a breath and let the music rise from within. "Do not forsake me, my love" he sang, tears streaming down his face as the renewal of life took hold. Holding the instrument close, a smile crept over his face - he was alive and was going to be okay. His fingers started moving more quickly over the strings, gaining confidence with each note.

Every day the guitar was embraced and he practiced and practiced until the music seemed a part of him.  The fog was at bay, replaced by a joyful hope for a new future.

Carefully packing the guitar into its case for his audition at the restaurant, he felt as ready as he'd ever been. Cradling the guitar in his arms, he slipped through the door into Casa Musica and waited for the owner to notice him. With excitement rising in his voice he offered to entertain her dinner guests - would she like to hear him play? His fingers shook as he clutched the familiar instrument to his chest and started strumming his offering. She nodded her head and flipped through her calendar. With the date settled, the combination of relief and excitement had him almost skipping to his car for the drive home.

Nervous anticipation nipped at his heels until the day finally arrived for him to make his debut.

Peter stuck his tongue out to catch a big snowflake and smiled at himself for being such an excited kid. He grabbed the guitar case from the back seat of his car and made his way to the front door of the restaurant, careful not to fall with his precious cargo. This was it. He was surprised that he felt right at home sitting on the stool with the mike in front of him and looked around at the people scattered throughout the restaurant. With a deep breath, he bent his head and started playing. He could feel his joy intertwine with the notes of each song that he sang. He was exhilarated. Each time the audience clapped he felt a thrill of excitement energize him. Part way through the first set the red-haired woman, who had invited him to sing karaoke so many months ago, passed by and he wondered if she remembered him.

He played song after song, barely stopping to take a sip of water. He didn't want the evening to end, and thought back to the night, so many months ago, when he wanted everything to end. He wanted to laugh out loud with joy.

During a short break the owner of Casa Musica passed by to tell him that he was a big hit, and that she hoped he'd do a regular performance. Jumping up to embrace her, he wondered if she knew that Casa Musica had given him his life back when he was at his darkest moment.

The red-haired woman sat at a table watching him play and remembered how grey and fragile he looked when she'd first seen him. It was quite a transformation, she thought to herself. As she left the restaurant she smiled at him, nodding her head in recognition. He was singing "Need a Little Christmas" and as the door was closing behind her, the words "Happy ever after" caught her ear and hung in the air like a promise.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Memory is the treasure house of the mind

A mild form of insanity took over yesterday making us decide to drive into town to visit Costco. Imagine… 3 days before Christmas and every single person that has taken time off work was cramming their way through the gaping doors. We stuck close together as we never would have found each other among the hordes of cranky shoppers. The crazy thing – we only needed a few groceries! (although I did have my hand on the little vacuum that I want – someday…)

After Costco we went to Home Outfitters which had good sales, but we wisely kept our wallets in our pockets – not so with Home Depot. We left with some plastic bins to help when we start to tackle the basement. I have a thing for plastic bins… I have them in all shapes and sizes, from small ones just big enough for a tube of toothpaste to giant ones filled with all manner of junk, all ready to be employed when a moment of organizing mania strikes. I like things neatly contained, although you wouldn’t know it from our house!


I was emailing my niece this morning about the memory that is triggered by cicadas. I am 6 or 7 sitting on the lawn at my grandfather’s place in Kelowna. The grass is dry from the hot summer sun, the towering pine trees seem to crackle as they march down the steep slope towards the lake. The lake is way below us – too far to walk – we are probably a km above it in the mountain. The smell of pine and grass is imbedded in my memory. I had to go through my file of hundreds of scanned slides to find a picture, but they don’t seem adequate.


While I was browsing through the slides (1350 of them!), I ran across a photo of my little sister Kirsten and I standing together wearing matching Christmas dresses. I don’t know if you’ve seen the photo that is floating around the internet of two little girls, approximately the same as as Kirsten and I were, the older one scowling while the younger one shows her pleasure at matching her older sister. The caption for both girls is “I’m wearing the same dress as my sister”. I almost fell off my chair laughing when I saw this one of us! Oh my, how times change – now I’d be pleased just to be near enough to her to have a matching outfit. In fact, we bought matching dresses the last time they were here – I decided on mine after she bought hers! We didn’t actually wear them at the same time, but still there was a connection to each other.



Memory is the treasure house of the mind wherein the monuments thereof are kept and preserved. ~Thomas Fuller

Monday, December 22, 2014

Home theatre

Sunday the grey clouds moved back in sapping my energy once again. That was okay though as I had a movie day planned. By early afternoon I was wrapped in a blanket on the sofa and watching old movies the same colour as the clouds.


The first movie was about a bull terrier and was filmed in the early 50s. It was interesting to see how much the breed has changed since then. If ever there was an example of how selective breeding can wreck a breed, this is one. What was once an athletic breed has been changed into a cobby dog with a head like an enlarged splitting wedge.

After the dogs, the movies turned to Christmas themes and included 'Christmas in Connecticut' and then 'Holiday Affair' with Janet Leigh and Robert Mitchum in another romantic comedy set at Christmas time. These were mindless, but entertaining.

The next movie was the more dramatic 'The Legend of [Lylah Clare](http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063219/)'. There was some thinking involved.

Believe it or not, TV viewing didn't stop there but continued with some Disney footage and finally ended with a few episodes of Dr. Who. My mind has been turned to mush! I rarely watch that much TV but it was nice to have a totally brain numbing day!

Oh, I did do one thing - the poodles got their faces clipped, which spread hair over much of the house - how the HECK can just their faces create a hurricane of hair? I've been toying with the idea of getting a small cordless vacuum to keep up with the dust bunnies. Do any of you have one? What brand would you recommend. Carm is reluctant as he figures it would only last a few years - I think it would be worth it!


I have to take a moment to thank Merikay for the lovely comment she left on yesterday's post - it left me grinning for the rest of the day ;-)

Lylah Clare: Do you really believe that you have a licence to ask any dirty question that slimes into that snake's nest between your ears? And nobody challenges you. Why? Because they are gentleman? [guttural laugh]

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Preparation for Traditional Festivities

It is a sunny day today! We saw a bit as well yesterday and after several days of gloom it was a glorious sight! This morning I lingered in bed, enjoying the bright sun and the shadows that played across the lovely green walls. The colour glowed this morning – a beautiful green touched with blue, like a grove of trees with the reflection of the sky in every dew drop.


Friday was lefse day - we are having our Norwegian Christmas Eve just a few days early so that everyone can come (well, not everyone - the NZ people are still on the other side of the world).

With 8 lefse cooking at a time - Carm manning the spatula and me with the rolling pin - we got a double batch done in less than 2 hours. Teamwork!

We had a few hours to catch our breath and then went next door for a neighbourhood gathering at Laurie's. If anyone deserves the title of Martha Stewart it would be Laurie. She has an unusual design flair - empty frames and screen doors were suspended horizontally from the ceiling, framing light fixtures and huge candelabras. She had old wooden shipping boxes used in ways I'd never think of. I felt that I had stepped right into a magazine. I wished that I had my camera so that I could capture some of the ideas for my own home.

There was one more task to prepare for our Norwegian dinner tonight - potatoes. It is traditional to have boiled potatoes as part of the meal, and since we already have a huge bag of potatoes we often bring them cut up and ready to cook. Carm peeled and I cut. Apparently it seems that I WRECKED the potatoes by cutting them too small... once the dead horse was well beaten, Carm drove to the village to get another bag. Carm peeled, and I barely cut, leaving the potatoes in giant hunks that will surely never cook.

As we worked Carm regaled me with stories of boiled potato lunches when he was growing up. His mom would wash the potatoes and then boil them whole. The kids would each get potatoes on their plate to peel and toss with olive oil and oregano. Carm still loves potatoes and will eat them any way they are served.

All was not lost with the small bits of potatoes - I'll save them in water and boil them up tomorrow night for one of Carm's favourite suppers: potatoes, black olives, green beans, green onions, lemon, and if I'm feeling extravagant, a bit of mayonnaise. Otherwise it will be dressed with chicken broth, lemon, garlic, and dijon mustard. YUM! And the hard work is already done. The beaten horse has jumped to life!




I’ve given up my search (at least for now) for artificial greenery to put in the corner of my bathroom. Inspired by something we saw at a store, I cut some branches from our trees (of which we have no lack), and Carm helped me trim them up to fit. We found some tiny LED lights powered by batteries and added a few decorations. I think it turned out rather nice!


The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart. ~Helen Keller

Thursday, December 18, 2014

give thanks continuously

There are some times that are so obviously moments full of grateful thought - yesterday one of those moments occurred. I was in the tub and noticed Bella sitting and staring at something - I thought that she was admiring her new dog bed and dunked my head back under the water.

A few minutes later Carm went into the bedroom and I heard him exclaim that Bella had brought a mouse into the house. I'm sure you can see that there were many things to be grateful for at that moment:

   1) she didn't eat it first and puke it up on the carpet (been there)

   2) the mouse was already dead and not scurrying around the house.

   3) I was in the tub and obviously couldn't deal with the situation, leaving Carm to clean up the mess!

I flitted about the house yesterday house cleaning and putting up Christmas decorations. After the month of chaos I wasn't keen on laying out the whole shebang (I have bins of decorations), but put out enough baubles to make the house seem festive. We had company coming - my high achieving, Martha Stewart aunt - so I wanted to make an effort.

Speaking of aunts, I've been getting emails from my 12 1/2 year old niece in NZ. When I saw the first email come in I thought "oh, this will be cute". In fact, it blew me away. Maybe I'm out of touch with the capabilities of a 12 year old, but she had better command of the language than some people I know with university educations!

I hope she doesn't mind, but here is an example of her description of her day: "There isn't a single cloud in the sky and the only wind is a tickling breeze that makes the grass sway. Most of the time everything is completely still apart from the buzzing bees and the occasional bird that swoops by. It is such beautiful weather. I wish I could send you some of this weather in an envelope ;)"

Of course I am a proud aunt and it kills me that they are so far away.

We are going to see the last Hobbit movie today!!! On youtube I heard the song they will sing while the credits are rolling - I'm quite certain that my vision will be too blurred to see brother-in-law Shawn's name in the credits...


Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

WHAT was I thinking?

You may recall that I purchased fabric at Ikea to make a dog bed cover for the fancy new beds that we got for the dogs… I must have been having delusions of grandeur to think that I could sew a bed with 4 round bolster edges AND piping, because I couldn’t.


Oh sure, I tried. Saturday I made the pattern. Sunday I cut the fabric to make piping and then started pinning the pattern onto the fabric. Frustrated moment #1 out of, oh… maybe 100, when I couldn’t get the pins through the doubled fabric. They stuck in my fingers pretty good though.

I moved the big table and lay the fabric out on the floor again, this time single sided and started pinning. That went fairly well, except for getting dozens of pin pricks.

I don’t think I mentioned yet that I was tired – bone tired, and my head was full of cotton. I really didn’t want to be doing this, but forced myself to keep going.

Cutting went well and didn’t shed any blood.

I moved onto the piping – this would be easy I thought, after all, I’ve made piping dozens of times. My sewing machine seemed to be possessed by stubborn demons who tangled the thread and jammed the machine countless times. By the time I gave up I was near tears, not to mention so frustrated that I wanted to burn the fabric (but figured with my luck I’d burn the house down while I was at it).


I remembered wise words from my doctor – listen to your body and let it rest if it has to. Thinking back to the weeks of busyness I knew I was done for so crawled into bed and watched old movies. When I finally emerged from my quiet cocoon I felt great! Instead of frustrated tears I just felt mellow.

The dog bed still waited though… Monday morning I pinned one side – it was difficult, but I didn’t get too frustrated. Carm oiled my machine which banished the jamming demons. I got the first side sewn by the end of the day.


Tuesday morning I started back at it, determined to get it finished. Pinning, sewing, seam ripping, sewing, swearing, more swearing and then it was done. I will say that I’m under-whelmed by the result.




The other thing I didn’t think about: wet dog slobber spots show up as if they were outlined in fluorescent crayon. I never even thought of that. The old fleece blanket never showed a thing…



Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning do to do afterward. ~Kurt Vonnegut

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Foraging in the City

Thursday was the final WYL meeting for this year, so instead of gathering at the library, we socialized over a pot luck lunch at one of the ladies houses. It was a nice time getting to know everyone a bit better as we sat around a table that groaned under the burden of food.  It was late afternoon by the time I got home - no time for house cleaning what a shame ;-)


Friday we got going reasonably early and headed first to the Winchester liquidation. They get stuff from Costco as well as other stores, so selection is variable. I found what I was looking for, only to find out when we got home that 1/3 of the candles didn't work - so much for 30% off! I should have just gone to Costco :-/

Next destination was Ikea. We traveled for ages down back roads and highways but we eventually got there. There weren't scads of people so we grabbed a quick lunch to fortify ourselves for the marathon that is Ikea. I'm not sure how long we foraged among the mountain of merchandise, but we got what we were looking for. Well, not everything - I want a "plant" or plant like formation of plastic and silk, for the bathroom. Ikea had some, but they were maybe a bit bigger than I had in mind. I'm not sure where we'll find the right artificial greenery - any suggestions?

A trip to the next province this morning ensured that the dogs would eat for another few months - of course they didn't help us unload the heavy bags into the freezer but they were cheering us on. We made a few stops on our way home looking for real plants - no luck unless I was wanting a poinsettia. Carm was on the hunt for more white Christmas lights - well, I call them fairy lights ‘cause we leave them up all summer - I think he's turned a little Clark Griswold.

The other stop was for piping – yes, the sewing machine is being rolled out from its hiding place for another round of cursing and swearing. We bought new dog beds which do have removable covers, but we feel that a cover that slips over and is a little sturdier would be better. We found fabric at Ikea yesterday; with the piping we should get a good result. Groan… why must I customize everything?


Earlier, I lay in the tub listening to “You make me feel brand new”, by the Stylistics – a few tears pricked at the back of my eyes. The singer tells their partner how much they have meant to them and how, after a time of difficulty, the partner “makes them feel brand new”. It is so easy to take our partners for granted, and this was a reminder of how much Carm has been there for me during hard times.

This is just a snippet of the song

Only you
Cared when I needed a friend
Believed in me through thick and thin
This song is for you, filled with gratitude and love

God bless you
You make me feel brand new
For God blessed me with you
You make me feel brand new
I sing this song 'cause you
Make me feel brand new

~The Stylistics - You Make Me Feel Brand New

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Master Bedroom Remodel–photos

It took 33 days from the time we ordered the flooring and purchased the paint, to when everything was put back in place. At times it seemed like forever. We had to empty the walk-in closet at the 3 day mark to make room for the flooring installers to measure. Piles of clothes were all over the living room – I had to climb over the treadmill to get to most of my clothes.

We had no idea when the floor would be installed so we worked on painting areas that didn’t require us moving the bedroom into the living room. We got the 2 bathrooms and hallway to the bedrooms painted – the first of the pink to be covered up.

Then we got the call for the hardwood – we had 1 week to prepare. We wrestled the rug out that afternoon; what a job that was! From there we did the rest of the flooring prep – staples out – check. Painting was next on our list. There was even a day of rest before the installers came. They did their work in just over 1/2 day; once they were out of the house we installed and painted the quarter round, and touched up a few spots with the green paint. Darkness descended well before we were finished those jobs.

Now for the photos – I haven’t included the ones of the painting as you’ve seen them before.

This is what the bedroom was like before the changes – pink and a bit messy.






Wow – was that ever pink! I gotta say though, in the morning it was like a beautiful sunrise. I suppose it felt like a warm, welcoming womb! Maybe that’s why I loved it for so long – I wanted to escape this world?

The carpet was 20 years old, and aside from the main traffic areas, and the imbedded smell of dogs, it was in fairly good shape – thankfully our builder put in quality materials. We saved the underpad – again, good quality and perhaps useful for in the basement when we get that finished.




Painting was done and the floor installed. The room looked much smaller once the floor was in – that thing about stripes I guess!





The chaos in the living room lasted until the last day. I had gotten used to it – having so much mess was almost like having no mess at all – there was nothing I could do about it so didn’t stress about getting it cleaned up. Reverse logic?



Yesterday – day 33 from when we ordered the wood – we loaded the contents back into our room. The closet is full (but not quite as bulging as we purged some stuff) and the furniture is in place.

I’m not sure what I think about the colour yet – sometimes I really like it, while other times I’m not so sure. It doesn’t show up properly in the photos – the lighting was dark, plus I probably had the white balance off. The green is a bit like a chameleon as the shade changes constantly. I think that I’m just a bit slow to adjust to such a huge change – you get used to things after 20 years!




The dogs even got new beds – I have to get to Fabricland to see about getting something to make easily washable slipcovers. (more sewing – yay – not)

I’m sure it is no surprise to you that we had a small celebration with some bubbles! Phase 3 will be coming up soon – the front hall. It will be a tricky one as there are stairs to the basement and lots of weird little walls; the laundry room is attached so we’ll tackle that at the same time. But I’m not ready to think about that yet!


The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. ~Maya Angelou

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

33 days...

It was 33 days ago that we started emptying the closet - well, now the house is (mostly) all back to normal. There is still a little pile of things that aren't going back to the closet that I have to find a home for in the basement. It took almost all day to find the legs to one of the shelves (they were in a drawer which was a somewhat logical spot, but since I thought the drawers were too full for anything else I didn't check until the end of the day). Our backs ache and our legs are like rubber from moving so much stuff from place to place, including gut busting heavy things - but we are happy :-)

Photo essay tomorrow - for now we are chilling with a bottle of bubbles (if anything deserved celebration it is this), and watching the Corner Gas movie.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Phase 2 mostly done!

The floor got installed today!!! This is the milestone around which everything pivoted so I can breath a sigh of relief. I can live with a living room full of stuff now if I have to ;-) but since we got busy installing and painting the quarter round the moment the installers left, we should be sleeping in our own room tomorrow night!

The installers arrived right at the strike of 8am (we were ready, having set the alarm clock). The dogs were "relaxing" (not) in the spare bedroom as Flavio and his son Renzo, whistled as they worked.  It was a noisy process which involved much clattering and smashing, nailing and whacking. Plus the compresser ran full bore occasionally. I was slightly worried about our paint, and to say the dogs were freaked out by all the commotion would be an understatement, although they did settle down for a nap when I joined them for a bit - I ended up grabbing my tablet and sitting with them in the bedroom. Carm was underfoot like he normally is where there is a tradesman in the house.

Carm saw an ermine outside the basement patio door this morning! It must be a good sign.

So, as we sit here tonight, there is no more painting or nailing, or other such work left to be done (until phase 3... but lets not go there just yet).  I've been stuffing (carefully arranging) the odd bit into the closet - but the big question is: will I be able to sleep tonight?!

Sunday, December 7, 2014


I listened to "Obla de obla da" for decades before realizing that Desmond is a cross dresser. Times sure have changed since Lucille Ball was in the chocolate factory.

Have you watched any Christmas specials yet?

I enjoyed a peaceful day with nothing to do and blinders on against the chaos. Blackberry playbook is a pita - I downloaded an app that supposidly syncs with iTunes but didn't have any luck at all getting it to run. Perhaps that's why the only review said "worst app ever". Tomorrow I'll try using the one paid app available. Frustration drove me to shut down my computer and turn to my tablet where my short story waited. There are still a few weak areas to work on and then it might be ready to publish on my blog.

Tomorrow the floor! Very excited!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Dislike, like, hate, Love!

Those were the emotions that went through me today as we painted the bedroom. I had chosen the colour quickly - we were in Home Depot looking for a new colour and while I had a few promising swatches in my hand, something on the wall perpendicular to me caught my eye. It was a display for another kind of paint, and this colour reached out and grabbed me. Talk about making a quick decision on something we'll most likely live with for years!



When it first went on it was a weird green blue grey (think sea foam green) colour (this is when I first started to freak out), and as it dried it turned much darker. Against the fresh paint it looked really dark. Horrifyingly dark. I had already been freaking out about the "sea foam green" and wasn't sure what I thought about the darker colour. Not to worry – the paint kept changing colours like a chameleon until it dried to a lovely green tinged with blue. I was happy, and Carm has been saying how much he loves the colour the whole afternoon and now wants to paint the living room the same shade (not gonna happen!).


We used a different type of paint this time - don't get me wrong, we were happy with the Behr of the yellow - but this Behr Marquee brand is fantastic and covers with one coat! So instead of painting a room three times - primer, paint, paint - it is just a once over. LOVE. My aching back says that it is worth every extra penny.

My new tablet is working out great - I didn't bother connecting the two together and just using the micro sd card that was already in the old one to transfer data. Easy peasy. Files are transferred :-)  This morning I hooked it up to my PC, and using iSyncr, synchronized with the dreaded iTunes. Playlists and music transferred in just a few minutes. Happy :-) Now I just need some bluetooth speakers or headphones (hint hint Santa CarmClause).

Before the work started I got out into the field with the dogs. It was freezing and there had been a heavy frost – the low sun made the field sparkle as if it were dusted with diamonds.




'Paint only what you see,' his hero Millet had admonished. 'Imagination is a burden to a painter,' Auguste Renoir had told him. 'Painters are craftsmen, not storytellers. Paint what you see.' Ah, but what they hadn't said, hadn't warned him about, was how much you could see.  ~Christopher Moore, Sacra Bleu: A Comedy d'Art

Thursday, December 4, 2014

It is just a lamp (or is it?)

We take one step forward tomorrow - some strangely coloured green with a hint blue paint will be slapped on the bedroom walls. We did have a few gallons of the yellow/beige already purchased, but I just couldn't bear the thought of a beige bedroom. It's fine in the bathrooms and halls, but we wanted something with more. I stood in Home Depot with a few small fabric swatches in one hand, and paint swatches in the other. How to decide so quickly? In the end I went with what Carm and the paint guy liked… nothing like switching the blame!

Today was our last writing group meeting for the year. We'll have a pot luck for lunch at one of the ladies next week, then that's it until January. I didn't have anything specifically written for today - I'd half started on a story about Spike, then worked on another short story, but neither were finished, and I didn't want to rush them, so I read "Green Fields". One lady had to leave the room, but everyone else stuck it out - there were no tears shed, but I did get some positive feedback, as well as pointers about where I needed a bit more detail. Very helpful!

Yesterday we got the rest of the prep done for the floor & painting. It was good to be so busy all day as my new tablet came in the mail! I plugged it in for its 8 hour charge - by the time it was finished it was almost bedtime so I only got to play with it a bit. Sadly, I kept getting "unfortunately the launcher has failed" messages when adding a widget - I wasn't a happy camper. Luckily there's an app for that! So this afternoon I curled up on the sofa (in the sun) and got to work setting up my new friend. I still have much to do, but figure I should aim for the apps I use all the time, and gradually install as I need. But then again, I do want to make sure all my data has been transfered. FYI the google backup on my original tablet transfered most apps automatically, but not all data - photos and things like that have transfered - time to get my SD card out!

hummmmm…. I wonder if I can connect the 2 tablets together with a usb cable?

As I look over at my old tablet I feel a little pang - it has been by my side for almost 4 years. It got me through my first months of retirement, entertained me on the airplane when I was going to NZ, posted blogs and photos of my trip every day, came with us on our journey west. I wrote my first short story on it this past summer, and close to a thousand blog posts before that. I wonder how many words have been typed out in its keyboard. The writing on some of the keys is worn out. I have a few uses in mind for it for the future. And after all, like in the Ikea commercial a few years back with the lamp sitting at the side of the road in the rain - it is just a lamp.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

WYL #33 A look back

Last weeks reading was a compilation of different stories. It was fun to write!

Looking Out

My mom looked at me suspiciously as I walked down the stairs.

"Where is your friend?" she demanded.

"What friend? There's no one here." I countered with a teenager's annoyance.

"We saw someone standing in the back patio door as we drove past, there was definitely someone there. Did you just change?"

"No. I was just having a nap."  This had been my first time staying alone at home while the rest of the family drove to the East coast and I didn't appreciate getting in trouble for something I hadn't done. I followed Mom upstairs with one of the suitcases. As she entered her room, she stopped abruptly when she saw the painting of her mother on the wall, and with a pale face turned to look at me.

"You look so much like your grandmother - do you think it was her at the window, looking out for you?".

I thought back to the last few weeks - lights had mysteriously been left on, curtains opened and then closed again. I thought that I'd heard something in the basement a few times and had stopped going down there. My grandmother had passed away years before I'd been born, but a close friend who was a psychic said that my grandmother had contacted her to let her know she'd be looking out for us all. Could it be? To this day my mom swears it is.

As I sit here writing this I wonder if it could have happened that way. I was named after my grandmother, so maybe there is a special connection. I know there have been incidents in my life where a helping hand has materialized just when I needed it. Maybe she is that voice deep inside me that doesn't let me give up? My own guardian angel.

Alphabet soup

She was serving alphabet soup, but I knew the bowl she handed to me was poisoned so tried to pass it back while the rest of the kids at the table pretended that nothing was happening. Suddenly we were all in the huge belly of an aircraft and I was fighting with someone who wanted to throw me out the cargo door. Just as I was about to go through the hatch my eyes popped open and I was in the velvet darkness of my bedroom.

I tried to make the dream stop re-winding itself in my head, but even with my eyes wide open it wouldn't stop. I couldn't understand why the lady across the street would want to poison me. After all, just a few weeks ago she had made me a special cake for being so helpful with cleaning up their basement.

I did eventually fall asleep that night when I was an innocent 7 years old, but there are times the memory still haunts me.

A Magical Marriage

The cup of sugar slowly melts to a dark amber liquid as it is shaken on the hot stove burner. Boiling water is carefully added when it is at the right hue of golden brown. It is left to bubble away on the stove until thickened into a thick, honey like consistency, and is then set aside to cool. I get started on assembling the rest of the ingredients. Butter, lots of butter, is whipped until it is a pale golden fluff, then heaps of sugar are beaten in and a bit of flour and milk is added to make a thick batter. Finally the cooled amber liquid is added, turning the cake into a delectable burnt sugar delight.

No cake is complete without icing, but no ordinary froth will do for this cake. Brown sugar, butter, and a bit of cream simmer on the stove until it is bubbling like the fumaroles around a volcano. At just the right moment the pot is whisked off the stove and the electric beaters immersed. For 5 minutes it is beaten, then just as it is about to harden, the brown sludge is quickly poured over the top and sides of the cake. Hurry! There isn't a moment to lose as the icing is quickly turning into a hard fudge shield. The crowning glory is not beautiful to the eye, but the first bite of sweet fudge and moist cake blurs the eyes to its shabby exterior. A sugar rush of staggering proportions intoxicates.

Once a year, on Carm's birthday, the simple ingredients of sugar, butter and flour come together in a magical marriage to create this decadent dessert.


Monday, December 1, 2014

an elephant by the hind legs

The dogs were surprised, and perhaps a little freaked out to see the contents of our bedroom moved into the living room. Our king size bed looms, and the detritus from bedside tables and dressers litter the room. The floor installers come next Monday, so the plan is in motion…


Once the contents were disbursed around the house, we got to work pulling up the old carpet… it came up easily, and the nailing strips were a breeze… but… I don’t know if you know this, but the carpet for a 14.5x15.5’ room weighs about as much as an elephant and is almost as awkward to move. Seriously though, we rolled it up as best we could (which was basically just folding it), then carefully dragged it down the newly painted hallway and into the living room.


We hadn’t really decided what to do with it at that point and vaguely thought we’d bring it to the basement. But HOLD THE BOAT!!! We don’t want a stinky 20 year old carpet down there! So we dragged it out onto the back deck, and rolled it up properly, then with muscles bulging under the strain we staggered down to the barn. We’ll deal with it another day (and probably take it to the dump as I don’t think it would ever compost, and is probably too dangerous to burn). My arms and legs are like rubber and my back is strained, but the hardest part of the job is done.

We have more prep work to do on Wednesday, then on Friday the paint cans will be moved back upstairs. I like the paint colour in the bathrooms and hallways, but I’m having second thoughts on using the same paint in the bedroom… it is just so, well, beige. I’m thinking of harassing Carm into getting a few more cans of paint… I’d go for a green that is similar to the living room, but deeper for that feeling of shady forest glen, rather than the harsh Sahara desert. But maybe I’m just being fussy.

Before we got to work, I spent some time getting my iTunes up to date – I found an app for android that will let me sync with my pc iTunes, including playlists – I thought that this would be an excellent idea. Wrong. I was quickly reminded why I dislike iTunes mightily… first multiple copies of each song were found everywhere – WTF – I spent days cleaning that up last year… then! it couldn’t find any copies of some of my music at all.

Frustrated and maybe just a bit pissed off (yes), I found instructions on the apple site to fix this up. Oh yea, it fixed it up all right, and removed all my playlists. There was no indication, but the instructions were for an earlier version, and I am s!&t out of luck. 

The whole music thing is very frustrating. I have an iPod that of course uses iTunes; I have a Zen that uses it’s own software that hasn’t had an update in eons and doesn’t work very will with Windows 7; I have my PC which has lots of software options; I have my Android tablet that also includes many software options; and I was thinking of pressing Carm’s old playbook which has limited options, but does have an app that might sync with iTunes.  So iTunes was going to be my go-to app, but over the years I have had so many “opportunities” with it…


When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it's best to let him run. ~Abraham Lincoln