Sunday, 29 March 2015

Spring Is The Time For Change

Even if the weather isn't really cooperating here, spring has arrived. It's a time for growth and renewal and renewal is vital to every single human being.

Did you know that the human body is estimated to have 37 trillion cells in it? Those cells are constantly replenishing and reacting to each other and their environment. That got me thinking about my environment and how I was affecting my 37 trillion cells.

Then, that thought got me thinking about how difficult the concept of connection with the universe is in a metaphysical sense and how easy it is to understand in the case of a disease such as cancer. I have no difficulty accepting that exposure to external toxins can cause one of my cells to mutate and start the whole process of creating a malignancy. Why then, is is so hard to understand that exposure to good things can affect my life at a cellular level? I've read Biology Of Belief by Bruce Lipton twice and it all makes sense to me while I'm reading it. Incorporating it into my daily life isn't quite so simple.

I decided to share my theories with a girlfriend. These conversations always begin with me saying, "So the thing is ...". That's the cue for my friends to seek the nearest exit because they know nothing short of convincingly feigning a massive heart attack will get them out of hearing my latest ponderings on life. Be thankful you are cyber friends and can simply X out of the conversation.

"So the thing is, Liz, all we need to do to affect our lives is change one thing, one time, one day. All our 37 trillion cells will react to that change. That doesn't seem so hard does it?", I say.

Liz must have considered this one of my least zany theories because she created a visual reminder of it for herself and posted it to her photography blog The Little Things In Life. If you want to pin it, please click on her site and pin from there.

In the spirit of spring renewal, I thought you might want to join Liz and I in changing one thing, no matter how small, one day in the coming week.

We'll be like chicks coming into a whole new world while we are experiencing something new.

Maybe take a different route to work, eat something you've never had for breakfast or go someplace you've never been. Or, how about listening to a genre of music that you are unfamiliar with? Try meditating or exercising or changing the time you go to bed and get up.

If you're up for it, try something big. Enroll in a class or ask that guy you've been sweet on out for coffee. Say no when someone asks you to do something you don't want to do. Just say no and don't explain yourself. Ekes! In fact, say no to this idea of mine, if you want. "But, the thing is .... Change one thing, one time, one day and every cell in your body will know it and it will respond to that change.". If even one of your 37 trillion cells thinks this change is exciting or even mildly interesting, that's a whole lot better than all 37 trillion thinking the stress you are feeling means they have to send out signals to your adrenal glands that the body is under attack and needs defending, isn't it?

Cats have no problem with this concept. In fact, they are the masters of it.

Clara Jane saw me set these Easter decorations out and said to herself, "This is new. I've never slept here before, with these exact things in this exact spot".

And, she settled right in to give it a try.

The fuzzy, little chick didn't respond to the big, black cat snoozing there. Maybe the chick didn't recognize the danger or maybe she was so excited about the new world outside her Easter egg shell that she wasn't a bit afraid.

I'd love to hear your ideas for change and, if you find that changing one, little thing makes you feel better, it would be great to hear about it in the comments!

I'm sharing this with Inspire Me Monday

Monday, 23 March 2015

Getting Photos Out Of Old Albums

I've been whittling away at a bad weather project. Like everyone else, I used magnetic photo albums in the '70's and 80's, only to discover the photos have become stuck to the album pages and can't be easily removed. There's nothing magnetic about those albums; the tiny stripes that held the pictures in place are glue.

The adhesive has dried out and is causing the photographic paper to deteriorate. The pages themselves are not acid-free and are causing more damage to the photos. The icing on the cake is the plastic cover, which is further corrupting the photos. The photos become brittle and the colours fade or change. There's no question that they have to come out. I can save you a little research time by directing you to a good video showing how archivists deal with this issue by clicking here.

The first thing I did was take the pages out of the albums and remove the plastic sleeves. That buys a little more time for working away at the project. No matter how many videos you watch that say the removal will be easy, it won't!  The ones I'm working on right now are particularly difficult to remove because they are home developed and the paper is thinner than the usual professional paper. I have the negatives for these pics and can risk some experimentation. I recommend taking a good photograph of your pic before you start, or you could scan the pic to be sure you have a copy in case anything goes wrong.

These are my tools. ~

I split open the pages so I could get at the back of the album sheets. ~

Then, I lifted a corner of a photo and slid a piece of dental floss under it. I tried waxed and unwaxed floss and couldn't see any difference in performance. Gently pulling the floss back and forth in a sawing motion begins to release the photo from the glue. ~

Applying heat to the back of the album pages every so often, helps to soften the glue. You can put the pages in the microwave, after removing the plastic cover, for 15 sec. intervals to soften the glue. Anything longer than that runs the risk of scorching the photos. Overall, the hair blower did as well and was less risk.

In some areas, the floss couldn't budge the glue and I had to resort to using a sharp knife to pry the photo off. This usually took some of the album paper with it. ~

You want your photos to be lying face down on a natural linen or cotton cloth to ensure you aren't corrupting them with even more chemicals.

It's critical to do any lifting with a knife with the photos face down. If you try to lift the photo up from the sheets, instead of the sheets up from the photos, you will get wrinkle lines and cracks in your photos.

These removed photos are from the same album page and are the same home developed type. The one on the left is badly damaged and the one on the right came off with a slight bend on the upper left corner, where it was lifted to get the floss between the photo and album page.

This is a time consuming, sometimes frustrating and painful process, but worth it to save precious memories.

I'll go to the trouble for a picture of a well loved though very bad runaway dog (that cost me a fortune in dog catcher fees) and my baby girl who's all grown up now!  I hope this gets you started on preserving your precious photos.

I'm sharing this with Wow Us WednesdaysShare Your Cup ThursdayCreate It Thursday

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Today Is Uncle Simon's Day

I'm one of those gals that calls herself Irish, though I've never set foot on the 'ole sod. Nor, had my mother or Grandma ever been to Ireland. For all that, they stayed as Irish as Irish could be. My Canadian-Irish ancestors stayed within tight-knit Irish communities, married other Irishmen and, even two generations back, spoke Gaelic. My mother and one of her sisters were the first to 'marry out' as her family put it.

I was living like any other typical Canadian girl when a serious illness had my brother in a hospital a long way from home and my mom looking for someone to take care of me. I think I was 6 or 7 years old at the time.  She sent me to a great, great uncle's farm, in an all Irish enclave near Owen Sound, Ontario.

It was a scary, old farmhouse and a scary, old couple would be my hosts. I sat on the edge of the bed that night and listened to the "Oooooo" moans of ghosts that were surely trying to get in through the darkened window. It was a scene right out of Wuthering Heights and I was scared nearly to death.

Down the hall came my ancient great-great Uncle Simon, heading to bed before Aunt Cassie, for he always had an early start to his mornings on the farm. 

"And why would you be crying, mavourneen?" he said in the thickest of Irish brogues.  At least I recognized mavourneen as an endearment that my mother used. "It's nothing but the bawling of an old, blind cow that's walked into a fence in the dark. You wouldn't want Cassie to be on at me about getting rid of her because you made a bit of fuss, would you?"

Suddenly, I wasn't afraid anymore and Uncle Simon told me he would take me to meet the old cow in the morning.

"I'm thinking you'll be needing a playmate while you're here. I'll have my son Clem bring his girl down from his farm over a space. She's a sprightly, wee thing and has the nackiest little lamb that follows her about."

How I loved that farm, from that moment on. My cousin and I jumped from the hayloft into deep piles of hay, wandered through fields of sweet grass to pet the gentle, blind cow and cuddled a litter of barn kittens; all with a frolicking lamb in tow.

My mother cried when I came home because she couldn't understand half of what I said. I was speaking Gaelic!

I lost the bit of Gaelic I'd learned, but I never lost Uncle Simon's love and respect for the animals that provide us with the food.

How am I doing, Uncle Simon? I gave blind Gertie a pretty good home, I think.

I was an adult when Aunt Cassie died. Uncle Simon was as old as the hills and still on the farm. He certainly had some form of dementia. My aunts were upset at him crushing soda crackers and trying to light them in his pipe. Worse yet, he kept asking who had died and, when he finally realized it was his wife Cassie, he horrified them by saying, "She was a good girl.  I always liked her." 

To them, it showed a lack of feeling but to me it was that quiet man's way of saying he cared and he was constant in that caring. I thought of him saying the very same words to explain his devotion to an old cow. He said things in a simple way, but he felt them deeper than many a more eloquent man.

So today I celebrate St. Patrick's day with an homage to roots, families, farms and animals. It's the heart and soul of Ireland, transported to another grand land! ~

Let's all take a cup of tea, light a pipe or raise a glass to all the wonderful Uncle Simons, who teach little girls how to live in the world in love and harmony.

Happy St. Patrick's Day dear Uncle Simon! "Is tú mo ghrá.  I love you".

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Where You Been Maureen?

I haven't run off to the South Pacific to get away from the coldest winter on record in Canada.  I wish!

So many people I know have had the pipes burst in their homes and municipalites have been battling frozen or burst water mains. I was lucky enough to only have a frozen bathtub drain to deal with. And, if you are a cat named Clara Jane, helping with plumbing repairs is a total riot! Watching that rag that's plugging the overflow shoot out every time the human uses the plunger on the drain is more fun than a barrel of monkeys.  For me, trying to plunge with one hand while I hold the rag in the overflow with the other, isn't quite so much fun.

The poor chickens were trapped in the coop for two whole weeks, so they didn't get frostbite, and it's only in the last few days that I know it's 5 o'clock by them clucking and staring at the house, demanding their supper.

Rukmini, Elizabeth, Kay, and Maddy think staring at the gate will make me magically appear but Viv takes the proactive route of squawking at the top of her lungs, from the highest spot she can find. ~

You'll notice Anne Boleyn is not there. She has passed on to the great coop in the sky. Dear Anne, who was nearly pecked to death at her former home and would have to be put down if my girls wouldn't accept her. Anne, who overcame her fears and made friends with Kay.  Anne, who never laid an egg in her life but stood guard over the other chickens while they laid theirs and wouldn't take one step away from the nest until I came to take the eggs. She was the first alert when predators were in the yard and ran to my door, squawking, to get help. I miss her.

None of that explains where I've been though, does it?

Well right in the middle of an insufferably cold winter, when it's taking your life in your hands to stir out of doors, the screen on my laptop fritzed out. I'm trapped in the house, cabin fever is a definite possibility, and I have no computer to help me while away the days!

This laptop is not worth paying a repair bill and I can't afford a new one, so a nice, computer savvy guy offers to try and fix it for me.  Yay!

Before you come down too hard on him, I'm the one who told him to break a piece of the frame off so I could get at the wire that was loose.  A little wiggle and I had a monitor again. I've taken the fix a step further by jamming the pen in to make sure the wire stays in place.

Don't you just love the pen jammed in right beside the Don't Touch!!! warning on the monitor? I may be the first blogger in history to die in the line of duty.

Oh well, all this frigid, computerless time has given me lots of opportunity to get projects done and I'll be talking your ear off about them all.

That is, right after I take advantage of a mild day to go out and see if I can salvage my snow destroyed boxwood hedge. ~

I'm off to catch up with all of you now.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

It All Came From A Box Of Cornflakes

Do you enter contests? Why not? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I was sorting through some keepsakes and came across a cereal box I had saved. It may seem a strange thing to keep, but it changed the direction of my life. ~

Let me set the scene for you. It is 1981. The recession I call The Great One (because that's the one that affected me the most)  is in full swing in Canada. Mortgage interest rates have risen to 20% and the mortgage on my new house in the city is up for renewal. We have to sell it and find something cheaper to live in.

We buy a crappy, little house in the country because the seller will hold a mortgage at the bargain basement price of 15%.  ~

The house is so small I have to give away a lot of my furniture. It is ugly, dark, cramped and spider infested.  The hydro service is so inadequate that I can't run the dryer and the oven at the same time.

Still, we are lucky that my husband's employment is secure. He works for childhood friends in an area that takes his unique expertise. We can afford to renovate and add on to the house.

Or so we thought. A month after we moved, the business went up for sale and we were officially unemployed in a market where there are no jobs of any kind available. Just feeding the kids is a daily struggle.

When you are that far down, you cling to any possible hope. I started filling out contest forms. Back in the day, that meant collecting UPC codes from products, filling out forms, addressing an envelope, stamping it and putting it in the mail. It's so much easier today with the click of a mouse and auto fill forms!

At the same time, I got the crazy notion that we should buy the business he had worked in and then he'd have a job again. All we needed was someone to loan us $500,000. I've had some crazy ideas in my life, but that one takes the cake!

So, I drew up a business plan, told my husband what to say and sent him out to get a loan. Of course the banks wouldn't touch us. We could only raise $5,000 in a second mortgage on the house. Hmmm - where to get the other $495,000?

Well, a friend of a friend knew a very rich and very kind man, who liked to help people get started in business. He would loan us the money if we could come up with $20,000 as a show of good faith. Remember, I can get $5,000 in a second mortgage. Coming up with the other $15,000 is a bit of a problem when you are out of work. It's two weeks from the closing date and we haven't found one penny of that money.

That's where the cereal box comes into the story. I had been given a stale box of Cornflakes and told they would be okay if I toasted them in the oven. They weren't, but I did send in the contest entry form. One box top, one entry. It won the grand prize, an Oldsmobile 98, a two week luxury cruise and $1,000 spending money! I picked up that car, drove it off the lot and went straight to the bank. They loaned me $15,000 with the car as collateral. I had my 20K and we were in business.

From the depths of financial despair to celebrating New Year's on a cruise ship is a long way for a box top to take you. ~

I took me from stale Cornflakes roasting in the oven to my very first taste of Dom Perignon champagne. ~

The very rich, very kind man told us to drop in for a visit when our ship got to Acapulco. He would be staying in his condo there. So, I stood on the balcony of the penthouse condo, that took up the entire top floor of the largest hotel in Acapulco and wondered at how it had all come to be. I was still wondering when a real contessa offered us a ride back from the condo to our ship and chattered away to us as if it was the most natural thing in the world for us to be there.

I rarely buy lottery tickets, don't bet on the ponies or gamble away my paycheck in a casino. But, I certainly do enter all the free contests I see.

I have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

ps - That crappy little house did get renovated and enlarged and I'm still in it today.

I'm sharing this with Alphabe-Thursay

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Love Of Lavender Linen Water

I'm not a fussy housekeeper, but I have a thing about bed linens.  I want them to be pretty, feel great and smell heavenly.

Here's where the lavender linen water comes into play. ~

When you grow up in a big family, you live with mismatched sheets that sometimes are so thin you can see through them. At least, that's what I remember. I distinctly remember putting my knee through one on the double bed my sister and I shared  She tells me it only happened once, but it must have been a horribly scarring experience, because I splurge on bedding today and even iron my sheets.

I know some of you are gasping, but it's rather relaxing to iron flat fabric. In fact, that's the only kind of ironing I like to do. I'll gladly iron all your pillow cases, sheets, tea towels and tablecloths; just don't hand me a man's dress shirt to do! I put the linen water right in the water reservoir of the iron and the steam pushes the scent into the fibres.

Even if you can't see yourself ever ironing your bedsheets, you can have all the advantages of a classic French lavender linen water with a little spray bottle.

Lavender is the best natural sleep aid you can find and essential, to my way of thinking, for children's beds. My grandson suffered from night terrors, those dreams you can't be awakened from, and a native woman told me to spray his bedding with lavender water before he went to bed each night. It became a game for him to spray his bed with 'ghost buster magic' before he went to bed and the nightmares disappeared. 

In the linen closet, it keeps everything smelling fresh and is a natural deterrent to moths and other insects. 

I think Lothantique makes the finest lavender linen water but it is rather pricey at $20+ for a quart size bottle. Not to worry, you can easily make it yourself for pennies a jar. There is a little initial outlay but the supplies will last you for eons.

You need a vial of lavender essential oil (available at health food stores and aromatherapy counters), distilled water and alcohol. As we all know oil and water don't mix and the alcohol acts as a binding agent and also allows the mixture to dry faster on fabric.

The recipe is so simple!

To four cups of distilled water (this stops minerals from being deposited on your fabric, iron or steamer),
Add 25 drops of lavender essential oil
Add 1/4 cup of clear alcohol (you can use vodka, witch hazel or rubbing alcohol)

Spritz it on draperies, furniture, pet beds (great for deterring fleas), bath towels, and bedding. A few squirts from a spray bottle works as well as a room freshener aerosol.  

I did a little winter gloom chasing retail therapy this week at my local Salvation Army Thrift Store and found some beautiful linens that were brand new. ~

The tablecloth was $3 and a set of six matching napkins was another $3. A linen towel was $1. ~

Look at the detail! I wonder why they never were used? It seems such a shame to me. ~

A little run through the laundry and some ironing with my homemade linen water (I keep it in a Lothantique bottle I saved) and the tablecloth is ready for dinner.

Or, more likely to become a favourite cat sleeping spot in this house. Cats really love the scent of lavender!

I'm sharing this with - The HomeAcre Hop

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Framing A Decorative Plate

I came across an antique Coalport plate in the Indian Tree pattern and was transported back to my childhood and special family dinners.

We had one covered serving bowl in that pattern and it only graced the dining table on the most special of occasions.  Mom would send us to the china cabinet to fetch the dish that we children always referred to as the pretty dish.  Oh, so carefully we would carry that bowl, eyes turned to it and fingers clamped on it in a death grip.

We knew that it was no ordinary piece of china. It had been a wedding gift to my parents from a real author! In my house, anything that had belonged to an artist, was prized above a gift from royalty.

It was even more mysterious to me because I knew the abandoned, ruined cottage that he and his wife had lived in when they retired.  There was a scandal attached to the dish because my, oh so Victorian minded grandma said he wrote, "dirty books", though she did say his wife was a most genteel British lady!

I've never forgotten the author's name, though he died in 1956 and I've never read one of his books. Finding this plate gave me the nudge to do a little research.

Frank Pollock was a science fiction writer, which completely surprised me. I had visions of Lady Chatterley's Lover, not threats from outer space. Grandma was right about the 'dirty book' part though. It must have been shocking in 1906, when he wrote his best known work Finis', a tale of the end of the world, where the protagonists, facing certain death, make love. Uh huh, they did and that must have put my grandma into a swoon!

My parents gave the dish to my brother as a wedding gift and he scoured auctions and antique stores until he put together an entire dinner service in that pattern.

I only need to have one, little luncheon plate to remind me of the story but it did look rather unimportant just plunked on the wall.

It needed a frame!

I found one in need of a paint job in my stash and gave it a coat of light blue paint to pick that colour up in the plate. ~

Far too boring for Frank Pollock and his dirty sci-fi books.

Let's dab at it wildly with gold leaf foil! ~

What do you think, Frank? I like it! It's classic and edgy at the same time.

I think that little plate holds it's own on the hallway wall now. ~

Now, I'm off to find Frank Pollock's books and short stories. This just may spice up these cold, winter nights!