Sunday 27 May 2012

A Wonderful Surprise In The Mail!

I'm just off a three day marathon in my rental renovation.  My sister and I went through 7 gallons of stain painting the garage and shed!  I think a whole gallon of it wound up on me!  My sister and brother, their spouses and I worked at break neck speed on the grounds and outbuildings, while the dry weather held, and took today off to recuperate.

I picked up my mail, that had been sitting in the box since Friday, and was so excited to see a parcel from my bloggy friend, Fiona!  She lives in West Sussex, U.K. and writes a wonderful blog that I stalk follow, called Just Paint It White.  The title is a little misleading because Fiona does faux finishes and murals for a living.  She has the most amazing eye for turning ocean flotsam and found articles into decorative home decor accents.  I should have a whole Pinterest board titled, Things Fiona Made That I Want To Copy!  Just click on the title of her blog for an inspiration tour.

I love the customs declaration of contents.  I can just imagine agents wondering why someone would send a bag of twine all the way from England to Canada! ~ 

Inside the bag with the charming, vintage images are two items wrapped in tissue and raffia and a card. ~

Fiona has told me there will be two identical presents.  I'm to keep one for myself and pass the other along to anyone I feel deserves a gift.  The Pass It On Project was started by Karah at The Space Between to spread a little happiness around.

So what's inside the tissue paper? ~

It's a handmade, burlap bag trimmed and accented with blue and white fabric.  She chose the fabric to go with my blue willow dishes!

Here's where the ball of twine comes into it. ~

This is a holder for kitchen twine.  Can you believe I meant to buy twine and forgot it twice this week?  Now, it is always close at hand and charmingly displayed!

Hmmm - what to do with the one I'm to give away.  Wendy from HerBallistic Garden has invited me to dinner tonight and her sister-in-law will be there, too.  Her sister-in-law is a kind and generous person and I think perfect to receive this gift.

She was absolutely delighted with it and I got all the hugs for Fiona's thoughtfulness!

The Pass It On Project made two people very happy today!  I'll be passing it on in blogland and who knows who it will reach next!

Thanks, Fiona for making our day!

Saturday 26 May 2012

A Parting Gift From My Neighbour

For the last thirty years, I have had the most wonderful neighbour.  He has never complained about anything my family did and he has never given me cause for complaint. I commented on his patience with neighbours, many years ago, and he said, "Dogs die and kids move away.  Why get upset about things that aren't permanent?".

Chuck is a quiet, shy man.  After my divorce, he would slip over to my yard and trim the shrubs that had become unruly and clip back the heritage, climbing rose that straddled our fence.  He never said a word about it and was embarrassed if I thanked him.  When his wife lost her battle with cancer, he made sure his daughters called me so I would know why the ambulance was there and not be wondering.  I had free reign to tap into his hydro if I needed to run power tools at the back of my yard and his shed was open should I need a tree lopper, extension ladder or lawn roller.  He was simply a good neighbour.

Unfortunately, time has taken it's toll on him and he could not keep up his home anymore. His worn out knees couldn't manage the stairs and a fall left him with limited use of one shoulder.  He, now, had to ask me to help him.  I was happy to pay back all of his kindness, but I know it bothered him.

He sold his property and moved to a senior apartment.  When the house was being cleared out, his daughters asked if they could pay me to put a few items in my dumpster. I watched these girls grow up and we are very comfortable with each other.  Of course, I told them that was fine and that they were to tell their dad he was insulting me by offering to pay.  He had paid many times over with cucumbers passed over the fence and bags of corn from the family farm.

They held a yard sale to get rid of the extra items from the house.  The daughters did not want to negotiate with me so I did my dickering  with the 10 yr old grandson.  I made my purchase for the grand total of $2 and the child showed me a beautiful (his words) rhinestone brooch.  He had wanted to buy it for his beloved teacher but for some reason wasn't allowed to.  I bought the brooch and whispered in his ear to help me back to my house with my purchases.  I handed him the brooch and told him to put it in his pocket and not mention it.  I'm awful like that with kids!

A few minutes later, Grandson was back with money in his hands.  I thought he had been caught with the brooch, but no, it was the money I had paid for all my purchases.  He said, "Grandpa says we're not to take any money from Maureen".

I had to fight back tears when Chuck left his property for the last time.  I do have the most wonderful thing to remember him by.

What I bought was a vintage, blue willow child's tea set.  I'll have tea parties with my granddaughters and we'll always drink a toast to good neighbours! ~ 

For the story behind the pattern on Blue Willow dishes click here.

Thursday 24 May 2012

An Amazing Dumpster!

I had no idea the amazing life a dumpster leads until we ordered one up to dispose of building waste, as we worked on the rental property!

Apparently, my brother believes 'bigger is better' and  rented this huge one. ~

I spent a day loading it with broken drywall, bricks and all the usual debris that a renovation generates.  We cleared out junk from the garage and shed and tossed a broken dryer and barbecue in.  The back third was full and very neatly arranged, if I do say so myself.

By morning, nothing was left but the actual building materials.  Not a hint of scrap metal remained.  How will I ever fill this thing if stuff disappears in the night?

Never fear! More stuff will appear.  Tables, dressers, beds, TVs, chairs, oil drums and lamps have, somehow, found their way into it! ~

Hey, who's tossing their junk into my dumpster?

Not to worry!  One more day and half of this is gone.  Could I have saved the cost of the dumpster and just put the stuff in a big pile for people to rummage through?

It became my daily sport to see what had appeared and what had disappeared from the magical, metal box in the driveway.

Then I did it!  I dove in my own dumpster!  There was a perfectly good tote with the lid.  I took it.  Oooo - is that a white board and stand?  Perfect for my yard sale!  Thank you unknown people for leaving me stuff.

O m'gosh, did my siblings toss this door that had been stored in the back of the garage? ~ 

Uh huh, I took it, too.

Look at this wonderful, sliding bolt! ~

A little clean up and this baby will be terrific!  She won't even need a paint job. ~ 

I can't wait to see what is or isn't in there tomorrow!

Monday 21 May 2012

Flags For Queen Victoria's Birthday

I thought I'd make a banner to celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday.  It turns out, free handing the union flag is no simple feat!  ~

These pennants will be hanging outside, so I wanted them large enough to be seen from the street.  Each pennant is 20" long by 10"wide. ~

Although I wasn't going for accuracy, there was lots of measuring, pinning and fitting to get the look of the the Union Flag.  I had all the fabric on hand and used the twine from a bale of straw for the cord so the cost was zero.  Effort was another whole story!

I think I'll host a Diamond Jubilee party to get some more use from my banner.  The colours are so jaunty and vibrant that I saw them turn more than a few heads in passing cars! ~

Why on earth did I tell my grandson I would paint his dresser as this flag?  Geometry was never my thing.  I think I'll be asking his math whiz dad to tape the dresser off for me!

I'm sharing this with:
Inspire Me Monday
DIY Project Parade
Sweet Talkin' Sunday
Making Monday Marvelous
Primp Your Stuff Wednesday
What's It Wednesday
Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop
Open House Thursday

Saturday 19 May 2012

An Excellent Canadian Holiday, Eh?

The 24th of May weekend has officially begun!  For those of you who are not Canadian, let me explain why this is such an important holiday to us.

For loyalists, it is a grand celebration of the birth of Queen Victoria on May 24, 1819. ~

If you are in the Province of Quebec, you can ignore the queen and celebrate Patriot's Day.

It doesn't really matter, because the real importance of this date is that we have collectively decided that this weekend is the beginning of the Canadian summer.  We are not discouraged by the fact that 90% of the time it is brutally cold and rainy and may even snow on this weekend.  This is the weekend we have determined we are to open our cottages, go camping, plant our veggie gardens and wear shorts.

Any Canadian under the age of thirty will refer to this weekend as the May Two Four weekend.  That's slang for 24 beer, and on this weekend you are to consume large quantities of beer while gathered around an enormous fire.  The fire, of course, is to ward off the frostbite.

While the Americans buy their beer in six packs ~

And the British buy it in pints ~

We buy ours in cases of 24.  I guess we're just better beer drinkers!  Americans know this and when they send their ambassador to meet our Prime Minister , he brings a case of Two Four. ~

He brought two twelves AND the wrong kind.  You can tell by the look on our Prime Minister's face but he's too polite to say so.  Once they're halfway through this case, it will be more about not falling in the bonfire than taste anyway.

By Monday night we will drag our frozen and hung over bodies to the back yard or public parks and let off lots of these. ~

Next to the male pyromaniac gene is the male love of explosions gene!  

Canadian dogs refer to this as the "Night Of Horrors" and cower under beds until it is over! ~

So, the highlights of this cultural treatise are - bring 24 beer, firewood, fireworks and shorts when travelling in Canada on the 24th of May.   

Happy Victoria Day everyone!

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Chickens, Cats & Raccoons

I'm six days into my chicken farming and it's been quite a wild ride! ~

See Gert's comb standing up!

The sad news is that Do didn't make it.  I put her in a nest the first night and found her with her head tucked under her wing in the morning.  She was gone.  I comfort myself with the thought that she got to be Do for one day, instead of #174.

Although Farm Girl has never had a problem with cats around her chickens, it was obvious from the start that my 24 lb. killing machine saw chicken on the dinner menu. ~

Okay, I'll only let him out when I can be out there to watch him.

On day two, the neighbour tells me he chased a raccoon out of the pen in the early morning.  I know Farm Girl had problems with a raccoon killing her chickens and I'm not having that with Gert and Maude!

I add a couple of solar lights to discourage night prowlers. ~

Does that keep that raccoon away?  Nope!  I was getting up through the night at the slightest sound to make sure my girls are okay.  I'm sleep deprived and I'm mad!

I'm attached to these girls already.  I've taught them how to use the ramp by pushing their little bums up the ramp and down the ramp, up the ramp and down the ramp.  I've picked them up and put them in the nests at night, until they learned to go in there themselves.  I put them on the perches and picked them up when they fell right back off.  I'm not losing them to some marauding raccoon!

So on day four I put up this! ~

Now, I have a giant dog run for a lawn ornament!  Maybe I can disguise it with some trailing vine.

Does this keep that raccoon out?  Nope.  At four a.m. I'm out there, in my jammies, chasing that devil away.  The girls are sleeping like babies because they have a twenty-four hour bodyguard.  I can't keep this up and have to devise a roof for the kennel and get it installed ASAP!

Here's the tally on costs for three eggs. ~

  Coop                                          $250.00
  Chicken wire fence                          16.00
  Solar lights                                        6.00
  Feed & oyster shell                         20.00
  Used dog run                                150.00

$442.00 divided by 3 = $147.33 per egg.  Move over Faberge, 'cause I'm catching up to you in value!

Thank heavens free run eggs are much healthier than factory farmed eggs.  They have 1/3 less cholesterol and 1/4 less saturated fat.  They have 2/3 more Vit. A, 2 X more omega 3 fatty acids, 3 X more Vit. E, 7 X more beta carotene, 70% more B12, 50% more folic acid, and 4 - 6 X more Vit. D.  Make sure your eggs say free range and not free run.  The chickens have to be outside, foraging, for the eggs to have the extra nutrients.

See what my girls gifted me with today! ~

Have a day of pleasant surprises!

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Rescued Chickens

As you know, I have a lot on my plate right now.  I'm in the throws of renovating my rental property and trying to reclaim my tornado ravaged yard.  Although the coop has been here for two months, getting chickens was the last thing on my mind!

Then, the call came from my daughter.  She runs a rescue farm for abandoned and abused farm animals.

"Mom, I have forty chickens I'm rehabilitating from the horrific conditions in a battery farm (that's a mass egg production facility) and forty more have just come in from an experimental facility.  Can you and Aunt Lynn come for your chickens now?"


I hastily erect a chicken wire run and dash to the farm store for a bag of feed.  The next day, my sister and I head out on the 1 1/2 hour drive to the farm.

Farm Girl gets her Aunt Lynn's chickens first.  Lynn's are from the battery farm and have been under rehab for a month.  ~

Lynn is holding her first egg before she even leaves the barn!

Okay, which ones are mine?  Farm Girl looks imploringly at me.  "You're my mom and I'd like to give you the best ones in the barn, but....". 

Oh no, the dreaded 'but'!

"I really want you to take the three worst." ~ 

Gertrude is blind, Maude is undersized and terrified of everything and Do is barely able to stand.  They have numbered tags pierced through their wings.  Their combs have grown huge and floppy in the overheated barn and hang over their eyes.  Spending their whole lives standing on a wire grate has left them with long claws that curve around the wire. Jammed together, six to a cage the size of a microwave, their feathers have been rubbed off or burned off by the urine from the ones in the cages above.  They've been bred to try and get chickens that will lay more than one egg a day.  Seriously?  When is enough, enough?

So, my girls have come home with me and I'm doing my best to make this the best place any chicken could ever hope to live! ~

Gert and Maude want to stay under the coop

Do doesn't seem to know how to lie down.

It takes sixteen weeks to restore the chickens to health and teach them the things they don't know how to do.  They don't know how to preen, perch, peck or scratch in the dirt. They can't negotiate a ramp and don't know to go to the nests at night.  Their bones are so brittle that they can easily break a wing or leg and I'm handling them very gently. These girls have only been rescued for two days!  

Here's the first time they have ever walked on grass, in the sunlight ~

The last photo is taken on their third day here.  I think they are looking much better already!

Stay tuned for the tale of  "The Chickens, The Cat and The Raccoons!"

Sunday 13 May 2012

Because Of You, Mom!

Because you graduated from high school top of your class, knowing you had no chance of further education, I learned to do my best, regardless of the rewards. ~

You were the best waitress, then riveter, then telephone operator you could be and taught me to take pride in whatever work I was doing.

Because you taught yourself how to drive on a borrowed Model T Ford, and got your licence the day you turned sixteen, I learned girls are not frail, hot house flowers and can do anything boys can do. ~

Because you loved your dogs and cats, I learned to care for all God's creatures and my home wound up looking like this. ~ 

Because you spent years as a leader and trainer with the Girl Guides of Canada, I learned to cook over an open fire, fashion just about anything from lashing cord, paddle a canoe, splint a broken arm, care for a home and do good deeds.

Because you wanted to live in Northern Ontario and were willing to work nights and care for your children in the day, while Dad went to Teacher's College for a year, I lived in one of the most beautiful spots on earth. ~

I watched beaver build dams, swam, canoed and explored miles of forest.  I picked blueberries and cranberries, caught fish and studied bears.  I was free and unfettered from eleven to sixteen.  There were no social classes, no in groups and no competition over clothes.  Warm was good, cold was bad.  That was about it for style.

Because you always had room at your table for strangers and friends, I met missionaries and farmers, professional athletes and artists, professors and forest rangers and learned that everyone is interesting and knowledgeable in some way.

You read and I read; you wrote and I wrote.  If you had stayed with us a little longer, I know you would have blogged and loved it!

Because of you, I am me!

Thanks, Mom!  I miss you!

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Lose Weight And Feed Your Brain!

Now that I've talked about the possibilities in prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's by consuming coconut oil, let's see how to get it into our diets!  I am totally unfamiliar with this oil and have a big learning curve in figuring out how and when to use it.

Then, I remembered that my good friend Wendy, from HerBallistic Garden, already uses it in her home.  Being the sweetie that she is, she agreed to guest post and show us how she makes yummy and really low calorie popcorn.  I had this at her house one night and, even though I'm a big butter girl, I loved it!  Thanks, Wendy for sharing!

On the heels of Maureen’s last post
Hope For Alzheimer's Disease?, she has asked me to guest blog about
how we use Coconut Oil in our house!

I’m Wendy from HerBallistic Garden and not only am I Maureen’s fellow blogging friend,
but also her neighbour and I consider her to be a great friend!

One night when Maureen was over I made her our latest discovery....
Popcorn made with
Maison Orphee Organic Coconut Oil!

The reason this popcorn is so darned great with the Coconut Oil,
is because you pop it in the oil....
I use the stovetop method for popping - the same one I grew up using....
but with this oil, NO BUTTER IS REQUIRED!
It is soooo delicious, you just need to sprinkle some salt on and it
has this wondrous buttery flavour with only a hint of coconut to it.
In fact, if you didn't tell someone what the flavour was, they probably would be hard-pressed
to figure out what that budding flavour on their tongue was!

You can buy this "Maison Orphee"
cold pressed Virgin Coconut Oil at a Health Food store or a kitchen store as I did.

While I was there speaking with the owner, she told me
that women actually do need butter and oils like coconut oil because it enables us to process
vitamins and minerals in our bodies better!
Now Maureen has let us know about an exciting breakthrough with Alzheimers’ patients using coconut oil daily that can help with memory loss!

I'm all for helping my body function better!
Get the popcorn out!  Yay!

Click on the title of Wendy's blog to see tons of garden, crafting, antiquing and cooking ideas.  You'll love it!

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Hope For Alzheimer's Disease?

My mom had Alzheimer's.  It's a relentlessly cruel disease.  I watched it strip her of every joy in life, make her loved ones become strangers and her home environment become a constant danger to her.

I knew the disease was "shrinking" her brain and the damaged areas were lost forever.  All the doctors and all the material I read told me this was a fact.  Autopsies of deceased Alzheimer's patients confirm these facts.  I don't dispute these medical studies.

What I do have is an experience that I present as another fact.

I spent my mom's last Christmas day with her at the nursing home.  Mom was always happy to see me, but it was clear she did not know my name or my relationship to her.  I was simply someone she liked.  She paced the halls of the nursing home day and night and whistled continuously.  When she was tired of a visit she whistled louder to drown out my conversation.  This visit started out the same.  I followed her around and around the halls and chatted away about her grandchildren.  As we approached the lobby, Mom suddenly decided to sit down for a bit.  That was a rare and welcome event and I was delighted to take a breather on walking and talking.  Mom reached out and took my hand. Although she had been unable to say a simple sentence for close to a year, she said, "I have loved, and yet, I am alone.".  Tears sprang to my eyes and I tried to comfort her. She shushed me and continued, "And you have loved and you are alone.".  Now the tears were flowing.  My mom was back and she was comforting me!  She continued to converse, normally, for a couple of hours and then became very tired and wanted to sleep.

Over the next few weeks she was able to recognize and talk to several family members.  During those weeks she became physically ill and was discovered to be in the late stages of pancreatic cancer.  Twenty-two days later, she passed away.

I'm telling you this story because I believe that my mom's brain was not completely damaged beyond hope.  Otherwise, how could she have regained the skills of speech, understanding and recognition that Christmas day?

I picked up this book. ~

When Dr. Mary T. Newport's husband was losing a seven year battle with Alzheimer's, she tried to get him into clinical trials.  Tests showed him to be ineligible as his condition was verging on severe.  Her research led her to believe she could raise his level of functioning with simple dietary changes and he might score high enough to enter one of the trials.  This is her account of  the shocking improvement he experienced and her plea for more study into this form of therapy.

Snopes will tell you that this work does not fulfill the requirements of a scientific study and that is true.  It is the observations of a loving wife, with a scientific background in neonatology.  It is her story of research and everyday application of findings, right down to recipes.  It is a remarkable account of a man regaining skills and his personality.

I am not an authority on Alzheimer's disease.  I'm an at risk daughter of a mother, that lost ten years of her life to a disease that is expected to hit epidemic proportions as the boomers age.  I'm someone who knows the toll, physically and emotionally, that the caregivers suffer.  I have friends that are watching their loved ones slip away more everyday and I will lose friends to this disease.

If this book had been published before my mom passed away, I would have used Dr. Newport's information to give us a fighting chance.  I wanted to let you know the book exists, so you can make the decision on it's validity yourself.

I am forever grateful for that short time my mom was returned to me.  But oh, I might have had so much more!

Thursday 3 May 2012

Sentiment vs Selling

There have been some really tough decisions to make in putting my rental into shape for selling it.  I have to set aside my feelings about this property having been my parents beloved home.  I have to set aside my love of history and the preservation of old buildings.  I have to forget that this was the general store in the village that I call home.  If I don't retrofit and stage this place, with the goal of appealing to the largest market of buyers, it may not sell.  If it doesn't sell, it may well take me down financially.

I'm a certified and experienced staging professional, but that doesn't make it any easier when you are the owner!  Letting go is hard to do!  (I feel a Neil Sedaka song coming on here.)

The decision to remove the big, black and gold fan my parents installed was easy.  I always hated that huge spider  in the middle of the ceiling!  But, what about the tongue and groove ceiling itself? ~

Heresy to cover it up in my books!  My brother argued that it had been badly patched many times, over the years, where holes had been cut for stove pipes. ~

It showed obvious signs of the roof leaking and, although we did replace the roof last year, that's a turn off to buyers.  It would need to be sanded before repainting and we would need to try to match the wood to redo the old patches.  Worst of all, it didn't go all the way to the walls.

Three layers of wood made a messy and weird cove moulding around the room.  Big box store cove isn't deep enough to cover the gap. ~

The old squirrel nest is a nice touch, don't you think?

Here's were I lose my shabby chic blogging credentials but keep my Canadian Staging Professional ones.  We left the ceiling there and it is strapped, ready for drywall.  (That's Sheetrock for my American friends) ~

If, at some time in the future, someone undertakes a restoration of the building, they only have a few extra screw holes to deal with.

If you are keeping a tally, that's one for me (reopening the old staircase door), one for my sister-in-law  (removing the fake brick wall) and one for my brother (covering the ceiling) and one for my sister (pulling the sub floor up in the second story to expose the wood floors).

Wednesday 2 May 2012

My Once A Year Vase

The Forget-Me-Nots are blooming and they are my favourite flower!  You can take that with a grain of salt as I'll tell you Lily Of The Valley are, when they bloom, and go into raptures over my Peonies in June.  Today, I am in love with Forget-Me-Nots.

I did like them well enough to embroider 600 of them on my wedding dress in 1970.  As a talisman, I must warn you, they only work for 26 years.  After that, it seems, the spell is broken and he's free to go.

Luckily, I kept custody of my once a year vase!  It's an unassuming little thing and not really my style. ~

It languishes at the back of a shelf until the Forget-Me-Nots bloom and I rush outside to snip a handful.  Then, nothing will suit me for a container but this vase. ~

You'll notice I never trouble myself to arrange my florals.  The flowers land where they will and I tell myself it looks more natural that way.  It's so much nicer than saying I'm lazy.

The vase's days of glory will be short lived and spent outside when I am away from home.  My little cat Maeve cannot stop herself from pulling the flowers out of the vase and it's best for all concerned that there not be any unsupervised visitation!

Have a day of enjoying something special!

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Cleaning Products For The Tough Jobs

After someone mistook this clean window for a new hole in the wall, I thought I should let you in on what worked best on cleaning up the mess in my rental. ~

My friend, Wendy, brought me some Invisible Glass that she buys at Costco and it truly is streak free! ~

The kitchen cabinetry was brand new and we wanted to bring it back as close to that as possible.  These pics don't really show just how grimy they were! ~  

  I set aside my environmentally conscious side and started in with this. ~

It took off the surface dirt, but didn't touch the gummy stuff or the stains.

I expected to use a Magic Eraser on the red dye as the final stage of cleaning.  Did you know there are no chemicals in Magic Erasers?  They are made of melamine particles and work by sanding the area.  I never did have to go them, because the job was done with good old baking soda paste. ~

And the all time best degreaser on the market?  I mean, this stuff chewed through more grease on the range hood than you can imagine!  You know the stuff I keep using for image transfers on fabric?  Uh huh, Citrosolv!!!  My sister was raving about it while she cleaned the top of the cupboards! ~

It still took two of us five hours to clean this kitchen, but I swear by baking soda and Citrosolv now!

That's all the product testing I plan on doing this month, so I don't want any companies sending me samples of their cleaning products!  Wouldn't that just be my luck right now?