Wednesday 31 December 2014

Everything Changes And Yet ...

As much as change is inevitable, this year I'm struck by how many things stay the same.

Tonight 2014 is on the wain and a shiny new year will be ushered in with party horns and and glasses of champagne.  For some, it is a starting line to set off on new personal adventures and the race toward goals. Others will welcome the new year with a fervent prayer that the hardships or mistakes of the old year will be swept away and better things will come their way.  

It's a time to pack away the Christmas finery in plastic totes.  The memories, we will store in our hearts. ~


I always take time to assess my blog for the past year, look at the stats and consider the hits and misses. The same, old post on how to make a shiny bucket rusty remains the champion for four years straight. 

Rack up another 22,000 views for that one! ~

If you missed that post you can click on it here.

The second runners up are always cooking posts. ~

Gourmet herb butter for steak was the hit this year.  You can find that post here.

I'll tell myself that I'll do more projects and cooking posts and stop rambling about the state of the world or, worse yet, the forever jumbled state of my life. I know I won't stick to that. It would take a much more orderly person than I to follow a plan for writing.

Instead, I'll veer off into whatever direction is uppermost in my mind that day.

Today it may be my backyard feathered friends. ~

Tomorrow, it could be house destroying cats. ~

It may be a tragedy that pulls on my heartstrings or advocating for a healthy food supply.  For sure I will speak out against oppression or cruelty whenever I hear of it.  Those posts mean more to me than any opportunity to up my reader stats.

Over the holiday, I have been reading L.M. Montgomery's journals. ~

She is fourteen when she begins them and they carry through to after WWI and on to the end of her life. She writes of all the things that any of us would; childhood beaus, money worries, feeling unappreciated or unloved, dreams of success, broken hearts, boredom, physical ailments and the pain of giving up dreams for family responsibilities.  Her times were not so different from ours.

She felt all the frustration of the limitations imposed on women.  She wrote her novels in the the two hours a day she could eke out from caring for others and fulfilling the obligations of a minister's wife. The daily news during WWI was agony for her and the uncertainty was much like we feel in today's world of global unrest.  For all of that, she still cared about a pretty dress and how many chickens she had canned for the winter.  It is a fascinating account of the life and times of a woman who became one of Canada's best loved writers. You can find the journals on this Amazon affiliate by clicking here.

Yes, everything changes and yet a great many things stay the same.  I'm going into 2015 with hopes of change for the better and a comfortable sense that not everything will be unfamiliar.  I like that mix!

I choose a new word for each year.  It helps me focus and stay true to my intent. 

 My word for 2015 is Write. 

Happy New Year! My life has been so much richer with all of you in it.  It is wonderful knowing that we are all opening the book together and sharing the first chapter. May 2015 be all you wish it to be! 

Thursday 11 December 2014

My Version Of Frozen

This is my way of doing Christmas decorating that works for adult entertaining and still gives the grandkids some fun.  Like every other kid on the planet, my grandkids are obsessed with the movie Frozen.  While I'm not going to use Disney characters in my library, I can bring enough snow and ice into the theme to please all the Elsas and Olafs out there.

If it's white, crystal or silver it goes on the black Christmas tree. ~

The angels my daughters made for me so many years ago keep their place of honour over the mantel. A snowy owl and a couple of snowflakes hanging from the urns will work.  On the fireplace a grey and white winter angel presides over a bowl of "ice chips". ~

I'm still in declutter mode and determined to work with only things that I have on hand.  I WILL NOT BUY A SINGLE ORNAMENT!  Remind me of that when I go shopping at Michael's tomorrow.

A wind storm kindly left me lots of fallen branches in the yard and I popped a few in a vase with some 'passed their prime' silk poinsettias.  It doesn't really show in the pic but the poinsettias perked up nicely with some glue and glitter.  The branches are perfect for hanging some dollar store snowflakes.

The library is the first room you enter from the front door.  It's a very dark room and difficult to photograph so you'll have to trust me that there is plenty of glitter and sparkle in here. ~

The larger set of bookcases gets the frozen treatment as well with silver branches, ice chips and Christmas photos. ~

The great thing about using old decorations is I don't feel bad about cutting them apart to tuck into places. ~

If it says snow or ice to me it finds it's way into the library.  Lots of little things are down for the kids to explore and play with. ~

This is the kind of grandma house where kids get to touch things, even the antiques.  One of my grandmas had a house where nothing could be touched and the other one had a house where kids could actually have fun.  I know which kind of grandma is the kind you actually want to visit!

I haven't done much with the other end of the room yet but I'm sure more winter things will make their way there as I root through the Christmas bins.  If I'm lucky, the kids will want to take something home with them and the clutter will become my daughter's problem.

This is the end of the room near the front door. ~

Well, that's the first day of my very late start to Christmas decorating.

But, what would a post from me be without a cat picture.  Clara Jane just had to get up on the chair with the polar bear that the kids tormented last year.  He looks like he has a bad case of mange now. That's the polar bear I'm referring to, not the cat. The cat is as fine a specimen of pampered, rescued feral cat as you will ever see!

Next post I'll show you some close ups of how I do the bookcases up without spending a penny!

Monday 1 December 2014

It's All Art

A few years ago I stumbled on this delightful piece of art tucked away in the back of an antique store.

It's the costume designer's sketch from a Stratford Festival 1957 production of Hamlet.  I loved all the notations on fabric, design and accessories.

It was a great reminder of the summer my university age cousin held a summer job at the festival as Christopher Plummer's dresser.  I was still in grade school and it was a memorable occasion when my aunt and uncle took me to Stratford, Ontario and my cousin gave me the full back stage tour.  I fell in love with theatre that day and couldn't wait to see my first live play.

Last year, one of my granddaughters, that has had a hard time finding her place to shine, had the good fortune to attend that same theatre on a school trip.  The play was Romeo and Juliet and my granddaughter became Juliet, heart and soul, over the next few weeks.

I scrambled to put together a Juliet costume for her last Christmas.  I'm not really a sewer so it wasn't great, but she was very happy to parade around in it calling, "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?", to any audience she could find.

In October, she got to put that practice to good use when she won a small part in a television show The Murdoch Mysteries.

She loved every minute of her day on the set.  From wardrobe to filming, she was in heaven! ~

Even a ten hour day didn't tire her and she begged to stay longer to watch the other actors working when her part was done. ~

For now, the sketch will continue to hang on my dining room wall, but I have a feeling it will someday go to our budding thespian. ~

While she dreams of gracing the Stratford Festival stage, I'll be dreaming of the thrill of sitting in the audience for her performance.  What a full circle that would be!

I'm sharing this find with What's It WednesdayThursday Favorite ThingsInspire Me MondayShare Your Cup Thursday

Saturday 22 November 2014

Someday You Will Need It

When Zoomer Magazine, the publication that bills itself as the magazine for Boomers With Zip, asked the question, "What did you do to get ready for winter?", I could have thought of all the yard work I did to clean it up and shut it down for the season.  I could have thought of replacing weather stripping on doors, getting the woodstove up and running and harvesting the last of the garden produce. There are endless things to be done to an old house and country property to batten down the hatches and get ready for a Canadian winter.

None of that is what came to mind.  You see, the best work I did to get ready was done long before. Sometimes, years before.  I've been trying to think how to write this, my revelation, without sounding like a pompous ass.  I decided to just write it and assume you will understand what it is I'm really saying, because it's important that we all realize that our actions have long reaching effects.

I'm not sure I consider myself a Zoomer because my Zip seems to have been Zapped lately.  Sure, I raked and mulched, stored tomato cages and winterized the chicken coop.  My not very Zoomer bones were warning me that winter was coming early this year and I was fighting a race against time.
Lo and behold, a pickup truck showed up in my driveway last weekend.  It was a special truck because of the accessories it carried; two men and a log splitter!  Oh yeah, my brother in law and our friend had showed up to split a cord of wood for me.

Why?  Why would they show up, unannounced, to spend a day doing that hard work?  Because, I have always tried to be there for them, is my guess. ~

A friend of the friend had offered to clean the woodstove chimney.  I managed to do that myself. Why? Because I don't want to be a bother to anyone.  He showed up anyway and cleaned my eavestroughs, just as they were beginning to freeze over, packed with leaves.  He didn't even wait around for my thank you, just did the job and left.

If you are heading into the senior years, you'd better take stock of how you nurture your relationships. Of course, I never thought of personal gain as I went about interacting with people and enjoying my life with friends and family.  But, the truth is, we are all stockpiling poker chips for a time when we aren't able to do it all ourselves.  If you are still in your prime, just think of how many people you have time to love, help and care for and how many will be more than happy to give back to you.

Just as the log splitting was done, sleet began to fall.  An epic snowstorm was about to begin.  I was snug in my house with a blazing fire.  When the inevitable thaw happens, the snow will melt on the roof and run freely through the eavestroughs.

Best of all, I will have learned to accept help graciously and with gratitude. ~

So what was my revelation?  Perhaps nothing new or earth shattering, but something that I know for certain.  We are all living longer and we will all need help at some point in time. I'm only sixty two and I have lots of years ahead to give a young mom a break by minding her kids for an afternoon.  I am lucky to have been educated and could help those, who have not had that advantage, to learn to read. I have years of experience in the entertainment industry to help new artists develop their talents. I have more years in the interior design field to pass on tips and ideas.  I have a blog, with loyal readers to discuss issues, causes and things I believe in; a forum to talk about positive change.

I have had many times in my life when I wondered if anything I did made any difference.  I have been hurt and disillusioned and felt put upon by an ungrateful world.  In my last post I said I was discontented and had a "What's it all about Alfie?" attitude.

What's it all about?  It's about loving and giving.  It's also about receiving.

Then, the snowshoes can stay on the bedroom wall. ~

Care for others now and it can snow all it wants.~

You will be well taken care of!

Thursday 6 November 2014

The Season Of My Discontent

They say fall is the season of change.  Everything dies or goes to sleep for the winter, ready to transform into new life in the spring.  It makes me tired and restless at the same time.  Just as some people suffer from light deprivation in a northern winter, I suffer from "What's it all about, Alfie?" in the fall.

As far as the eye can see, I  have masses and masses of these to deal with. ~

I mulch and rake and burn and they just keep on falling.  My seasonal disorder makes me hear the voice of one daughter who thinks I'm mad to live out here and never misses an opportunity to tout the wonders of condo living to me.  I tell myself she's right and it's ridiculous for a woman of sixty two to have all this property to care for by herself.

I've worked too much the last few months just to pay the bills around here.  It's a Catch 22 of working outside the home to keep it all going and letting things get into a mess at home or working around the property and being too cash strapped to do the maintenance that must be done.

Coops have to be cleaned, repaired and winterized and I wonder why I can't be a normal person that just goes and buys eggs in the store. ~

Docks have to be taken out and secured for the winter. ~

The river deck is a shambles of overturned furniture and lounge cushions that some enterprising animal has torn apart for their winter bedding.  All that foam has to be picked up by hand. ~

So, today I just want to run away from leaves, chicken poop and vomiting 26 yr. old cats.  I don't want to be responsible for so many pets or gardens or 200 year old houses.  It's like post par tum blues for seniors.

I do know the solution to my malady, though. Slow down!  I focus on driving the tractor around and around the yard to chop up as many leaves as I can, but I stop to take breaks and enjoy the nature that surrounds me.

Old Utah looks content as he sits in a pile of leaves.  I'm aware that this picture I will take is the story of the end stage of life for Utah and the leaves he sits amongst. ~

I remember to smile as the chickens run to follow the tractor and see what treats I have overturned for them. ~

Although the tractor is worrying me by constantly stalling, I stop to chat with a neighbour.  What's the point in living in a village if you can't take time to have a bit of a talk to them about their cat?

I try to be 'in the moment' and notice the things that make me happy, rather than focus on all that is wrong.

A garden ornament that is ageing beautifully ~

The sun setting over the river. ~

It makes me remember why I live here.  Lorraine Anderson describes me very well, in Sisters Of The Earth, when she says, "Nature has been for me, for as long as I can remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure, and delight:  a home, a teacher, a companion,".

I'll take November as 'me' time and do a little self nurturing.  ~

A sweater clad hot water bottle and a book are a very good start!

Tuesday 21 October 2014

My Mother's Hands

I have my mother's hands.  She had small hands; far too tiny and delicate for the hard work of caring for a home and raising six children. As a child, I thought they were beautiful and admit I was a little bit vain when I grew up and found I had inherited that feature from her. I remember my daughter calling to ask how much salt Grandma and I put in our pastry.  I told her to use the amount that fit in the indentation of her cupped palm.  She said that was not a good enough measurement for her because, "You and Grandma have impossibly small hands!".

There was no vanity today, though, as I looked at my hands.  The nails were ragged, chipping polish on uneven lengths and cuticles in need of a manicure.  Worst of all were the raised veins and dark patches on skin that was lined and wrinkled.  Age showed on my hands and no cosmetician was going to be able to change that.

Just as I was grieving the loss of pretty hands, I remembered sitting with my mother when she was about my age and her looking at the hand that held her ever present coffee mug.  She sighed and said she was sorry that they had become old lady hands.

I remembered how shocked I was. They were still beautiful hands to me. These tiny hands had rubbed my back when I was sick and cracked the shells off hard boiled eggs to make my favourite sandwiches. They had picked enough miniature wild strawberries to make jam for her family for a year and extra to give to her parents.

They had polished our white baby boots and my dad's shoes every single night.  She said it made her feel good to see the polished shoes all lined up ready for the next day.

They peeled so many potatoes, year in and year out, that the blade of her paring knife was worn thin and half the width it had been when she bought it.

They were helping hands to friends and family in need.  They were loving hands that painted old bedroom furniture and kitchen cupboards to make a pretty home for her family.  They taught Girl Guides how to tie knots and wrap food in foil to cook over an open fire. They turned the pages of books as she read them to her children.  They drove the car for miles in the middle of the night, while I held my screaming baby, to get her to sleep.

I remember them darning socks and sewing perfect, little stitches with a needle and thread.  While all her kids had new winter coats, she took an ancient coat of her own and cut it down to a more practical car coat length.  She didn't have a sewing machine and wouldn't have known how to use one if she had it.  It was done with a needle and thread.  I remember being amazed as she fashioned a jaunty pill box hat out of the leftover fabric.

As Alzheimer's ravaged her mind, she became quite dressy.  I think she was reverting to a time when she was young and had a closet full of fashionable clothes.  She wanted her nails done each week and it became a routine for me to give Mom her manicure. Together we sorted through the colours in her makeup case to find just the right one for the week.  We are not a touchy, huggy, feely family and the manicure made it okay to hold her hand and fuss over her.  The same hands that had held me as an infant and made me feel connected and safe were letting me connect with her again and make her feel safe.

No matter how much she ate, the disease was making her body evaporate in front of my eyes.  Her wedding rings had to be re sized until they were no larger than my baby finger.  Eventually, they kept falling off and getting lost and we had to put them away.

I thought of all these moments in my life and how much my mother's hands had meant to me.  I was ashamed of myself for rejecting them when I saw them on myself.  She taught me how to use them well and they have earned their veins and wrinkles and age spots.

I will get a manicure and, while it is being done, think of those last years when Mom and I talked over our coffee as I did her nails.  I will look at my hands with pride and think how lucky I am to ...


Tuesday 7 October 2014

Rainy Days And Mondays ...

I should finish that lyric with, "always bring me down", but it didn't bother me a bit this time. ~

With a hint of frost in the air, this rainy day was a good time to bring in the herbs and geraniums that won't survive the winter outside.

You surely didn't think Clara Jane would leave me alone to do this job! ~

A few strips of burlap nicely covers a piece of plywood on an old garden table.  The plants get potted up in whatever I have on hand.  It doesn't matter what goes in front of that chippy old door; it always looks great.  It's kind of a no brainer, seasonal decorating crutch.

Nothing is trimmed up until the plants get over the trauma of the move.  In the middle, at the back, is a teeny, tiny bay plant that I am determined to grow into a real tree.  This  is the only place in this shaded house that gets enough sunlight to get anything to flourish and I'm hoping I can pretend garden all winter.

Just in case anyone is in doubt that this is a garden, I have a sign that my sister gave me for minding her pets while she was away. ~

It's seems like a good omen that the sun has decided to shine for a bit.  The $2 thrift store fountain is bubbling merrily and some daisy shaped tea lights are waiting for the granddaughters to arrive next weekend and see them lit.  The girls always do a thorough check of the house to see whatever new, pretty things are out.

It's a rustic look, but I like it. ~

Best of all is looking at the back lit window at night and listening to the fountain.  Or, it may be more appropriate for me to call it the cat watering station.  ~

This kind of day is just fine with me.  Those of us who live in a house with a metal roof love to ...

Listen  to the music of the falling rain!

I'm sharing this with A Return To Loveliness

Saturday 4 October 2014

Dealing With Teenage Chickens

I thought I was making my life easier by getting young chickens instead of rehabilitating old lay hens. WRONG!  Why did I not think about those terrible teen years?  Shouldn't the teenage bench wrecking, paint scratching, into everything cats have clued me in to potential problems with young chickens? Apparently not!

The new girls were faster and smarter than I was.  They escaped from the quarantine coop.  Then, they escaped from the run.  I gave up gradually introducing them to the flock and let them run wild.

It was like trying to keep Bart Simpson penned up. ~

All of my chickens, young and old, are convinced the bugs are much better on the other side of the fence.  They scoot through to next door and hang out under their pine trees. ~

The neighbours did mention that they had to chase them out of the petunia beds but didn't seem too upset about it.  They thought it was cute that the chickens were trying to get into their pool area. So far, so good.

And then, the new girls started rampaging through their yard!

I blame Rukmini for it.  She's a saucy girl and doesn't listen to a word I say. She's the white gal getting ready to push Vivian and Anne away from the feeder. ~

Wherever Rukmini goes, Elizabeth follows. Isn't she the cleanest chicken you have ever seen? ~

Even though most of you voted to name the third girl Clair, I liked the idea of naming her after my friend Mel's daughter.  I never go with the popular vote, which is obvious by my voting Green Party. We only got one seat in parliament last election, so that tells you how popular they are in Canada.

So, Madeleine she is.  She's quite shy but that doesn't stop her from getting into trouble. ~

These three girls have earned me my first chicken complaint.  First, the woman next door told me they were eating the lower raspberries.  It's best to bluff your way through these things so I told her she was lucky she didn't have to bend over to pick the low ones.

The next week she told me they were flying up and eating the higher ones.  Ekes!

I do so want to be a good neighbour and told her I would keep them in chicken jail until the berries were done.  I was very good about only letting them loose when the neighbours were at work and wouldn't have a clue whether wild birds or chickens devoured the berries.  Don't judge me!  My chickens absolutely hate being penned up.

I left a peace offering on their porch with a cute chicken note. ~

Everything would have been fine if the neighbour hadn't come home from work early, while the chickens were roaming free.  She thanked me for the eggs and said I didn't have to do that.  I made a cute comment about the girls wanting to make up for their bad behaviour.

Then, the neighbour said she had some lovely berries on the bushes today and would have to get them picked.  At that moment, we both looked over at the berry patch.  "Oh my!", said the neighbour.  The damned chickens had come out from under the pines and were flying up to gobble the berries!

I didn't even bother to try and smooth it over, just called the girls home and put them in detention.

For all I know, they may have promptly invited this guy into their bedroom. ~

It's really best for all concerned to NOT know what teenagers are doing!