Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 A Brand New Year

 
 
 


In a few hours, it will be a brand new year, new adventures, new happenings and in many ways life will remain the same. We will continue living in Muskoka for a few more years plus continue traveling back and forth to Prince Edward Island to work on our house renovations. Thinking back on how much we have accomplished already, I think we've made real headway.

When I think ahead to what we still have left to do, I sometimes think: " are we crazy?" to take on such a huge project. Then I calm down again by remembering we are taking our time, year by year.  Taking it one step at a time with family volunteering to help whenever they can. Jim's son Ryan has offered his help again on our trip out this fall for three weeks. We also may get out in February and March for a few weeks and he has offered to fly out then too..we are always grateful for the help.

Something else that I hope remains the same but will also change is regular visits from our precious granddaughter Claire who will turn two years old the end of January. What will change is her growing up, speaking more and more, little personality changes plus her growing towards more and more independence..Her newest adorable trait when we visit is to seek me out immediately I sit down and say: "come, come"..when I ask where we are going the answer is always: "play toys". As a loving grandmother what could be better than having play time with a willing grandchild.

Something new that was added to my life last year was an exercise program and a line dancing class. I am hoping that these two programs will again be added to the new year. Also more visits with my cousin Abby who I found this year, then start plans for a family reunion here so more of my family can be introduced to her. Finding a time my four siblings and spouses can all meet on the same weekend can be difficult..Usually a day has to be set, then hope for the best.

Must make new gardening plans for this spring and summer. More plants will be dug up to be transported to P.E.I. Last year many were transplanted and I will be anxious to see how they came along over the winter. If summers continue to be as hot and dry as last year, then I must search out more hot weather plants that can thrive on less rain and watering. I am yearning for some big changes in my gardens this year but don't want to spend a fortune either.

My sister's son who had the bad motorcycle accident in July, will be returning home to a new apartment at the end of January, walking with a walker and also using a wheelchair. He has come a long way after several operations, his spirits are good and I'm sure he is anxious to get back home among his family and friends, to continue his healing and live once again with his teen-age son.

My husband and I are going to a New Year's Eve Dance at the Legion here in town again this year with two other couples hoping to dance up a storm. Maybe I can even use some of my new line dancing steps! It is starting to snow here so the New Year may start out with us getting out the snow shovels. We have been out for a few winter walks admiring the Christmas lights but I need to get into my walking schedule again, making sure I'm walking three or four times a week. That should be my first New Year's resolution. The older I get the colder winter feels!

I would like to wish everyone a very Happy, Healthy wonderful New Year. There will be new foods to try, new books to read, great movies to watch and new gardening adventures. There will be weddings to attend for some families, new babies to welcome in others, trips to plan, new memories for the memory books.

 My husband offered to paint the living-room if I can decide on a new paint color. We repainted the bathroom and the kitchen this year. Picking colors for those two rooms was so easy. I'm stuck when it comes to the living-room, it's such a quandry. So I'll be off to the paint store in the New Year and here's hoping just the exact right shade jumps out at me, I like light colors..then that might mean new curtains. Looks like the New Year might start out with one of my favorite hobbies...Shopping!                 Happy New Year Everyone.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Found a Cousin, Sister...Friend



It all started with a blog..my brother's blog who is in between myself (glasses) and my new-found Cousin Abby on the left. She saw a picture of our great-great grandmother on my brother's blog, emailed him and the rest is history. My brother Gord then sent her email address to his four siblings and Abby and I started emailing each other.

I imagine the last time I ever saw Abby she was around 3 or 4 years old. Now I can hardly give our ages away but that was a "long" time ago for me..When we exchanged emails, we had an instant connection and it started getting quite spooky how much we found we had in common.

Her father is my mother's youngest brother. Both my parents are now deceased but I can imagine my mother especially rejoicing up in Heaven over Abby and I meeting in person this past Saturday. It turns out she only lives 3 hours drive away. So my brother who also emails Abby started making arrangements to meet her. My  hubby and I left Muskoka Saturday and he left London with his wife Pat and away we all went. We took many old photographs with us to share with our cousin and she brought along many with her. After all we have over forty years of life apart to catch up on..

We missed each others weddings, the birth of our children, all their school years and birthdays. Abby lived for a few years out on the East coast and her mother is buried out there. So once my husband and I are settled in our retirement home in Prince Edward Island or perhaps even before that we will look up her mother's buriel place and place flowers on her grave site.

We couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces yesterday as we tried to catch up on so many missed years and events. I feel like my cousin and I are kindred spirits. I kept wanting to lean over and give her another hug.  My brother and his wife asked me if I would recognize Abby when I saw her and I said: Oh yes, I sure will"..During one of my wash room breaks, Abby entered the restaurant..As I came out of the washroom I happened to look to my right and wow, there she was. I rushed over and grabbed her in a bear hug..Instant recognition.

We had mailed photos back and forth of childhood pictures of ourselves and siblings as well as photos in email so we had a good idea of what each other looked like. But there is nothing like meeting in person. The day went by all too fast so I'm planning on a family reunion this summer for as many as my four other siblings who can make it here. Abby will be our guest of honour.

Abby has three sisters, all grown, some with families of their own. Seeing photos of my cousins all grown up, of their sons or daughters is wonderful. It's so bittersweet to know where everyone now lives, but to realize we missed out on years and years of each other's lives. But not to have met at all would have been worse. And all because our cousin found a picture she recognized on a blog, of our 104 year old great-great grandmother, who was blind but could still sew by hand and would rock away the hours in a day in her beloved wicker rocking chair..

We do not know what life will hand us. Some days it is lemons, sour and bitter. Other days it is cherries, so rosy red and sweet. Saturday is a memory not to be forgotten. Another memoir to write for the three binders I am putting together, one for myself and each of my two children. Now I can add an amazing new chapter of how long lost cousins separated by provinces, towns and cities for far too many years, found each other..who are now rejoicing in a new found friendship that will last for the rest of our lives, no matter where we find ourselves..It is like coming home at last.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

It's The Little Things That Are Important



Christmas is just a couple of weeks away, the rush and crush has started, so in order to calm down and not get caught up in the frenzy, I started thinking of the "little" things that count..Like enjoying my morning coffee..I so look forward to the first piping hot cup of coffee each morning, it may be the only coffee I have all day or perhaps if I'm out shopping I'll indulge in another one but it's always that "first" one of the day I'm thirsting for.

Playing with my granddaughter Claire who will turn two at the end of January is one of my pleasures in life that can be as easy as playing hide and go seek behind the trees across the street. Or playing Ring Around the Rosie when she found a stake pounded into the ground just her height so she could walk around it over and over grinning and laughing while I sang the song..I made up a new version as it had rained the night before making the ground wet..so instead of saying "we all fall down" I sang, "we all look around!" She loved the new version and then we set off to run through the puddles!

Sending out dozens of Christmas cards is another simple pleasure at least for me. Typing up a news letter to send off in the cards to people I don't see all year. Writing a personal message in each card takes me quite a long time actually, but I really enjoy doing it. I don't receive as many cards back because many people these days are giving up sending cards, perhaps for lack of time or cost of stamps. But I shall carry on until I can't afford to do it.

Going for a drive after supper one evening with my hubby looking at all the lights and Christmas decorations that people have put up. We do this every year, it's a tradition and I point out to him extra special delights and exclaim with wonder over all the sights. It's the same with fireworks each year, I get so excited, like it's the first time I've ever seen them! We need to keep some of our inner child alive...

Baking some goodies that for some reason we don't bake but once a year at Christmas time. Perhaps favorite recipes handed down from a grandmother to a mother and now in our possession. When my parents were alive and all my siblings, spouses and children gathered at their home we would all take food especially desserts. I used to have to hide the mincemeat tarts and peanut butter balls as they were favorites and none would be left for supper otherwise..one brother walked in, took off his coat and headed for the kitchen to see where I had hid them that year!

Homemade gifts, gifts from the heart and hands of the maker. When we siblings used to get together in our younger years, we'd draw names among the five of us. For several years the rule was to make the gift. Those were fun years, coming up with a well-thought out gift, always thinking of the person as we would crochet, knit, draw or hot glue-gun something inventive. My one sister made me a gorgeous wreath one year after walking around her home-town gathering up all sizes of pine cones.

I remember all the hard work that went into making her a foot stool, I found a crochet pattern for a turtle and it was quite the undertaking..Those years are long gone, we don't exchange anyore, nor do we all get together because of the distance and family committements but the memories are still there.

This year is very exciting for hubby and I, we are celebrating 15 years of being together in December and we are invited to stay overnight Christmas Eve with our granddaughter and her parents an hour's drive away so we can watch her open her gifts the next morning. I will get to watch a child's glee and excitement as she rips paper off gift after gift, hardly knowing what is going on this second Christmas in her young life. Not aware of what joy and pleasure she is giving to her grand-parents, more memories to store up and relive, over and over.

Christmas can be so busy, so hectic and expensive if we let it get out of control. Even when I often have my shopping finished, I get caught up in "just one more little thing" for people on my list.  As I look through all the flyers in today's newspapers I must turn a blind eye and remind myself.."Your shopping is ALL done!"

I usually decorate to the ninth degree at Christmas as I love the glitter and varied decorations I've been collecting for years but with my granddaughter visiting many weekends I kept in mind that keeping it simple and uncluttered is better. Which makes it easier to keep clean and tidy. So I've had to change a bit this year, remembering it's the little things that are important...I don't need "every" decoration out of the box...

As Christmas approaches and another New Year is just around the corner, hubby and I wish everyone reading this a wonderful Christmas filled with treasured memories and a very Happy and Healthy New Year..If you have a fresh new blanket of snow remember one of life's simple pleasures is laying down in the snow and making a snow angel. Can't wait to show Claire how to do that and I can hear her giggling already!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas Flyers and Techno Stuff



As I sat drinking my morning coffee this snowy Sunday morning, I browsed through all the flyers that came in our Friday newspaper..Usually I'm comparing prices for all the grocery stores so I can get the best deals for food. Thankfully some stores Ad Match, so I have started to save quite a bit on food items..But at this time of year the flyers are FULL of items to delight the eye and pull us in.

Most of the flyers are advertising much cheaper prices to compete with the American Black Friday sales. My husband has a Kobo reader and he loves it. As I'm looking at advertisements I spy a mini Kobo on sale for a great price. Hubby asks me if I want one..Do I need one is the question or just want it for the sale price? I still love holding my books but hubby loaned me his Kobo on a long trip home from P.E.I. last summer and it was rather neat reading a whole book on it..no pages to turn and such large print..

I know I'm getting a camera for Christmas as the Fed Ex man was here 3 times last week putting parcels inside our screen door. I'd hear a thump at the door and open our hall door and there wedged between the two doors was a parcel. The first one was a camera card. The second parcel was a tiny case which looked like it would hold a cell phone. Until my hubby pointed out the word Canon on the front..then he spilled the beans that I was getting a new camera for Christmas as I asked for one..it must be a very small one judging by the size of the case..great for carrying in my purse. The third parcel was for my husband as he seems to love shopping online....

Another thing the flyers are full of is toys and candy..now I love my box of Turtles each Christmas, and dark chocolate mints and the list could go on and on as long as it's Dark chocolate..sometimes I give in and buy myself some treats, gifting myself! As for toys, it was no problem until I got a granddaughter.

 Shopping yesterday afternoon I picked up yet another doll as it was on sale! But then I counted how many I have here for her already...four at last count..how many can a little girl hold at once! Only one..so I put it back. I know she will be overwhelmed with gifts this Christmas with all the relatives she has..It was so cute though, had long blond hair and was a ballerina with soft legs and arms...My heart was tugging at me to buy it, it was so cheap, then my head kicked in and I put it back for the second time..so I got out of that aisle fast! I did buy her a child's pair of gardening gloves on sale so she can help her Nanny in the garden next summer. I had already purchased a small shovel so she can play in the snow this winter..

Hubby and I were Christmas shopping yesterday and the store was packed...I kept seeing things I wanted..a pair of black winter gloves, a new kitchen knife, a new spatula as hubby complained about our old one. A little later he said we should leave, we were getting caught up in buying for buying's sake..it's so easy to do at this time of year. He knows I LOVE to shop. About the only way for me to be good is to stay home! I was born to shop I think...

He bought a cable so that my laptop can be hooked up to the television and I can watch movies I find online on the larger tv screen. Then he had to show me how to use it and then how to  get back to just using one screen as on the television. Well! I hate technical stuff and I was overwhelmed at all the steps..he made me practice over and over until I felt I could do it and I even wrote all the steps down. I am so NOT good at technical stuff..But I'm learning, although I pout and grumble..

In a few minutes I'm leaving to do my grocery shopping and buy some wool. I'm making my granddaughter a poncho and perhaps a hat and scarf. Every winter I make myself a couple of new scarves because they keep coming out with great new patterns! (You didn't see me write that I already have a large bag of wool put aside for other projects just in case it's a long, cold winter). The year the above picture was taken my husband and brother-in-law had to shovel off our roof, the snow was above my husband's knees on the roof..last year was the first year in three that he didn't have to shovel off the roof.

I will try and be "really good" and not over buy at the store, we only need a few food items and I will try very hard not to go down the toy aisle. The best thing to do would be for my hubby to put a time limit on my shopping spree..perhaps he could bribe me with some dark chocolate!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Winter Wonderland




I knew from the weather report last night I might wake up to our first serious snowfall. When I drew back the curtains in the living-room a very beautiful, white lacy world greeted me. Now the snow is not deep and will probably not even last the day which won't hurt my feelings at all, but every tree branch, bush and flower is wearing a fluffy mantel of white.

We have had days and days of rain so the snow is sticking to branches, making my three burning bushes with their red berries look like someone dusted them with a huge sifter of icing sugar. I hope my carrots and two turnip in the garden have survived..It's been so wet here that the garden has been too mucky to walk in. I'm sure one of my hubby's weekend jobs will be to get his snow tires on now.

The picture I have posted is not of our home here in Muskoka but of our old farmhouse we purchased in 2010 in Prince Edward Island. The house was purchased in the month of November and for the most part the weather was very nice that month. My brother-in-law and I started renovating, tearing out the kitchen cupboards after which we started smashing down the old drywall. The day before I was to fly home, snow greeted us. Just looking at the above picture is making me very homesick for the island and our retirement home..

Speaking of cupboards brings me to my other topic, starting a small, seemingly innocent project like painting our kitchen in the house we are presently living in. When we purchased the house the walls were painted a very dark blue and the kitchen being a very small room needed brightening up..I chose quite a deep yellow, also using that color for my office. I guess I was thinking these rooms need brightening up really badly and that's why I chose yellow, but that has never been one of my favorite colors...I'm much fonder of most shades of green.

So last weekend hubby put two coats of green paint on the kitchen walls and I very gently suggested this would be a great time to put down a new kitchen floor..I had two floor samples here from over a year ago. At first he wasn't that eager to do it until the summer, but the more he thought about it, the more it started to make sense, so off we went to purchase new flooring. We settled for click lock vinyl that looks like cork. It will match the color of the kitchen counters well..

Then I had the idea we should rip up the old linoleum whereas Jim thought the new flooring would go over top of it fine..after more discussion off came the linoleum but not all the paper backing or glue..woe is me. I have been scraping that darn floor since Sunday and finished Thursday night. I thought I was finished in the afternoon but Jim moved the refrigerator and stove for the second time and there was two small patches left to do..

I had three different scrapers and used them all. I started out doing it for a couple of hours, then rested. When my right wrist started groaning and aching, I shortened it to scraping for twenty minutes or so, resting my wrist for longer periods. I'd sit at night with a cold wash cloth wrapped around my right wrist, then start work again next day. I am so grateful that job is done. We have been living in a mess all week, everything on shelves and counters had to be cleared out and is spread all over upstairs, I am so ready to get organized again. Especially since my 21 month old granddaughter might drop in on Saturday...on the positive side, she can't mess the house up more than it already is!

Another positive is that the tops of my kitchen cupboards got a good scrubbing and my antique bowls will be gleaming when they go back up there, every item will be washed giving me a head start on my Christmas cleaning. After living in such a mess for a whole week, I find I must look for all the positives I can. Today with the fresh snow, it reminds me of Christmas coming up fast.

Dear hubby filled in all the nail holes where I had hung pictures in the kitchen so I can start over and hang something different. I can decide if I need all those mugs and glasses and hopefully get rid of quite a few. After all we need to downsize a LOT before we retire. (or so I've been told)..

As I sit here typing I can see my white Christmas cactus blooming away, matching the whiteness of the snow on the front deck. Which reminds me I should water all my houseplants, which will lead to all kinds of other jobs. At least I don't have to get down on my knees and scrape the kitchen floor, in my mind's eye, I'm trying to visualize how amazing it will all be when once more everything is back in place...well minus what I can pry my hands away from!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Laughing at Ourselves...



For the next eight weeks on Monday afternoons my friend and I will be doing an exercise program which lasts for an hour at the Sportsplex.  We have had two classes so far and I'm enjoying it very much. I'm finding out that as I age I'm not quite as steady on my pins as I used to be.

We do one exercise where we stand behind our chairs and put one foot in front of the other, our feet touching and my muscles are a bit shaky. Then we are to take three steps forward, then backwards with feet touching again, toe of left foot touching heel of right foot..then the instructor tells us to close one eye. What a difference in perception then! I can get a bit wobbly and have to put one finger on the top of the chair. The good news is the more I review the exercises at home, the steadier my muscles get.

This past Tuesday was a free class at the same place to try out line dancing. My friend said she was going, did I want to join her. As I discussed it with my husband during supper the night before he told me to go and have fun. I reminded him I can be rather uncoordinated at times. He reassured me that he was sure people would "laugh with me" and not at me. I decided that he was probably right and called my friend in the morning to tell her I'd go.

When we arrived I was delighted to see another lady there I know well, I also knew she had taken line dancing lessons for a few years so would know her way around. The room started to fill up, I think at last count there were close to twenty people there, including several men. In fact our instructor was a man and he said he recognized me from somewhere...wonder where?

Our first dance was the electric slide. He would do the whole dance himself first then "chunk" it down, repeating a few steps over and over until we had it. This was all fine, I watched his feet and felt I had the steps. After quite a few repetitions,  he turned on the music which speeded up the routine. Well was I lost! What was wrong with my feet, felt like I had two left ones..

We were taught a waltz next which had more to remember but I could do that fine..then we learned a Greek dance to music where the tempo would be slow then speed up..I was able to do that most of the time although sometimes my legs and feet looked like a twisted pretzel. Although I was really warm from this last dance I really started to sweat when the instructor said we would do review. Which meant starting with the electric slide again. Oh NO!

Each time you do that dance you make a quarter turn to the left, so when I ended up facing the front of the building, everyone else should have been behind me..how embarrassing,  I'm facing everyone else! Suffice it to say I eventually just stood back against the wall until the music stopped and watched those more expert on their feet. It was the only dance where my head and feet just didn't want to co-operate.

Three ladies came quickly up to me when it was all over and told me not to get discouraged or quit, that they were exactly the same the first time they took the class last year. I had to laugh at myself in order that others would laugh with me and not at me plus I know I wasn't the only one who had difficulty that afternoon. I think we expect too much of ourselves, after all it was the first class I'd taken,  there were six more classes to take if I signed up. My friend turned to me and said she really liked it and was signing up, so hoping I would improve over time I signed up also.

I'm hoping eventually I'll remember all the routines and dance expertly around the floor with all the other participants. But if that is not to be, if memory fails and feet fall all over themselves, at least I'll increase my endorphins by laughing at myself...My husband chuckled as I related my afternoon. He repeated how I would have lots of fun and it's an afternoon out to meet new people. It's a win, win situation if I don't practice in my sleep, fretting over what foot goes where. At the very least I should lose some weight, now if I can just get my friend to skip the donut shop after our lessons!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Saying Good-bye to Summer



We are saying good-bye to summer here in Muskoka and perhaps saying good-bye to the fall season too. Yesterday in a period of three or four hours we had sunshine, heavy rain and a few seconds of hail. The weather channel and radio weather announcer keeps mentioning the unwelcome word "snow" the last couple of days. Of course it won't remain long but still it makes me shiver.

Looking ahead to cooler temperatures I put away the shorts, sleeveless tops, the sandals and bathing suits. Out came the long-sleeved shirts and sweaters, warmer coats and scarves. I have a weakness for a pretty scarf and added to my growing collection yesterday.

We have a huge candle store here in town called Rich Hill Candles. Every year at Thanksgiving they have a giant 3 day sale. I should not have gone out to it, should have stayed home but I had good intentions of looking for Christmas gifts for a couple of girlfriends. And what did I spy but a huge selection of new scarves plus many other delights to tease the eye. So another lovely scarf was added to my supply but I made sure it would go with more than one jacket or coat. It has red, orange, purple and a deep rose in it, so will go with my new deep plum hoodie from Victoria, B.C. plus my black 3/4 fall coat and red winter coat. Takes some of the guilt away you see...

I did not see something for my girlfriends this trip but truth be told I'm quite advanced on my Christmas shopping. Our Zellar's store is closing here in March as well as the one in the next town. They are not being replaced by a Target Store much to my dismay, making it very hard to shop for clothes in this town. It was the store I went to for my bedding, towels, area rugs and many other items.

Thinking I should go and see what kind of sales they are having last week, I ended up getting quite a few gifts for Christmas which are now spread all over the spare room bed. Two great outfits for the granddaughter, a  man's shirt and two spring form pans, one of which is for myself..I saw a great recipe on an afternoon TV show for a homemade ice cream cake which I beleive I can make.

Several weeks ago we took my husband's daughter, husband and our granddaughter out for brunch for his daughter's birthday. Before leaving the city, Jim asked if there was anything else I wanted to do. Knowing I didn't need anything I said "no" at first, then thought: "well, I never get to Winner's that often, so changed my mind." Since hubby has his Kobo reader with him he is quite content to wait in the truck while I go shopping..well at least he was for the first hour and a half..he came looking for me, I said: "have I been that long already?"..it seemed like minutes. So I agreed to be done in another half hour. All my purchases except one were for Christmas gifts so I felt I did well..

A friend's granddaughter is expecting a baby in January so I was able to pick up some gifts to add to the baby blanket I'm knitting in the evenings while watching television. Once that blanket is done one of my girlfriends hinted that a bunch of cotton wool I purchased while shopping with her would really suit a throw for her upstairs chesterfield. So the rush will be on to start that as my next project, but I know I can't finish it before Christmas...they take a long time, my right wrist often suffers when knitting for long periods so I have to take breaks away from it. At least she will know it's forth coming..

I keep a Christmas gift book, writing down year to year what I give and to whom, making comments in the book of suggestions I hear people make throughout the year which helps in gift selection. With my children living quite a distance away they usually get money which suits them. I'm one of those mothers who doesn't have a clue what clothes to buy them anymore, they'd rather pick their own.

I have to have things to look forward to you in the winter months so over my yard sale travels I purchased four interesting jigsaw puzzles. I am taking a ten week exercise program starting next Monday with a friend and I believe she will want to take another one after that, or classes in line dancing which would be a fun way to lose weight also.

The winter months aren't looking quite so bleak as they can when I've no plans in place. Last week I completely rearranged all the furniture in my living-room. It's not finished as it's not quite where it should be yet, but it encourages me to tear apart the house room by room, putting it back together hopefully with less in it! At least now I have some goals for when those white flakes start to fall for real, a time when I might be more house bound but with lots to do..(unless I start reading!).....

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wedding on Vancouver Island



We have now been home five days from our wonderful trip to Victoria on Vancouver Island for a very beautiful and touching wedding. The wedding was held outside on the grounds of Victoria University, a most perfect setting. It was my first trip to the West Coast and very exciting for me.

After having a week of sunshine every day and with temperatures in the mid-twenties, I'm "almost" tempted to move out there. But of course we are retiring in Prince Edward Island and I'm not about to give up that dream. I think we will have the best of both worlds for as long as Jim's son and new wife live in Victoria as they have a spare room! We are already hoping to make it out there in another three years just before we retire. The new bride and groom are visiting us next fall on the island again, to help with our renovations so we had better hurry and finish our spare room!

It is hard to put into words how I felt flying over and seeing the mountains for the first time. Inspiring comes to mind, awesome, glorious also describes how they looked. My first sight was of snow covered peaks all floating in blue..I couldn't look away for a moment. Later they turned granite colored and I saw so many blue or green tinged lakes and rivers among the mountains. It made me think how fortunate we are in Canada to have so much water.

The first word that comes to mind on seeing Victoria is lush. Even though many lawns there had burnt because of lack of rain like here at home, there was greenery everywhere, trees I've never seen before like a Monkey Puzzle Tree or Arbutus tree and flowers everywhere downtown by the harbour. For a gardener like myself, all the gardens I saw and toured were full of new ideas for me.

The wedding rehearsal supper was very enjoyable, we got to meet many of the bride's relatives, some of which flew in from Scotland. The wedding day arrived sunny and warm, perfect in all ways. Our little granddaughter Claire made an adorable flower girl, the outdoor setting was relaxing and we enjoyed a few dances after the delicious meal.

We managed well in the condo we shared with hubby's brother and wife, within walking distance of a grocery store and other shops. I spent my birthday in Victoria and was given complimentary tickets for Butchart Gardens. Again as a gardener, it was the most perfect birthday gift ever, we were escorted around the gardens by our new daughter-in-law as Jim's son had a return of the flu bug which had attached itself to him before the wedding.  Jim seemed to love the gardens as much as I did..I could tell that Jenn was making sure we didn't miss anything!

Another garden site we visited is Glendale Gardens or HCP, Horticulture Centre of the Pacific gardens where Jim's son volunteers..It's a garden for gardeners and the Zen Garden there  was such a calming place, a place to relax and cool down from the heat of the day. We also had a guided tour of China Town learning many interesting facts. We had rented a car so we toured Sydney-by-the Sea also going the opposite direction to Sooke and over the mountains to Lake Cowichan and Duncan.

We toured Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse another highlight for me as I love lighthouses..we went beachcombing there and yes, I did bring home some shells, few stones and beachglass to add to my already growing collection from P.E.I. We seemed to squeeze in a lot of sightseeing into such a short time, just wetting our appetite to go back and see more..while viewing Butchart Gardens, Jim's brother and wife went zip-lining, loving it so much they wanted to do it all over again..

We visited great pubs, had great meals and now I must start my daily walking again as a few lbs. came back on..I ate fish at every opportunity, the flavor so much better than here at home. I had made a bucket list of things I wanted to see before flying out and was surprised how many things I could cross off the list..We also enjoyed seeing deer, seals, eagles and rabbits on a hillside outside of Duncan. Jim's son is not so happy to see the deer as they eat many things he doesn't want them to in his yard..he said: "they are like squirrels out here"..

There were two little bumps in our trip, I left my favorite grey hoody in the airport in Toronto on the way out, then forgot to ask for it at a Lost and Found on our return. Also hubby lost one of his best black all weather jackets at a pub in Victoria the night of the bachelor party..we called several times, went back twice to no avail. I did get a new plum colored hoody for my birthday to replace my grey one and my new daughter-in-law bought me two new purses at the gift shop at Butchart Gardens. So a happy ending for me. The real downside of Jim losing his jacket was there was 4 complimentary tickets in the pocket for Butchart...someone is having a good time on his son's gift to us.

Victoria is a very beautiful place to visit and we realize they can get a lot of rain out there but we lucked out on a week of glorious weather, great adventures, a memory filled wedding, while meeting many new people. I find the flight a bit long, five hours out and four and a half hrs. back but with movies to watch, books to read and perhaps a nap thrown in, the time went fairly fast. Plus we were happy to get all our luggage at both ends. My sister-in-law Caron had a bit of bad luck, her zipper broke on her large suitcase about twenty minutes before the trip to the airport at 4 a.m. but my hubby came to the rescue by dumping out our suitcase on the couch and presenting her with it..thankfully we had lots of time before our flight and purchased a new hockey bag at Canadian Tire..

Caron also gifted me with a heather plant which I got home all in one piece. She transported a small Monkey Puzzle tree back to her home. All in all it was a wonderful experience, one I can look back in by reading my travel diary that I keep and viewing pictures we took and postcards I purchased. Once home it was back to reality, turning on the furnace, lots of rain and putting extra blankets on the bed. Our maples are starting to turn color so many tourists will be arriving to tour our country roads for the fall foliage..

We are looking forward to returning to the West Coast and my brother hopes to return there with his wife, so who knows, perhaps we can travel out together on a train and fly back. New memories to look forward to so I'd better start saving!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

East Coast, West Coast



In a few years hubby and I will be moving and retiring to the East Coast, to the gorgeous island of Prince Edward Island..We are restoring an old farmhouse which involves a lot of work but it's a labour of love, my husband might call it something else, he has to do most of the hard labour.

I asked my step-son who joined us on the island this year to dig up some of my plants here in Muskoka.  He and my husband then transported them in wash tubs out to the island..my husband filled the tubs with earth that had broken down from our black plastic composter..I received a funny email from my sister-in-law on the island this weekend, her and her husband keep our grass cut while we are not there..They have been very busy with work on their own property so our grass had gotten quite long before they had time to cut it. So Caron had quite the surprise awaiting her..

Caron informed me I had tomatoes growing, small cherry tomatoes and plum tomatoes in a flower bed... some of which she picked and will return to pick more once they ripen..she couldn't believe I'm not even there and we have vegetables growing on our property..as soon as I thought back to my transported plants in the tubs I realized what had happened. It was seeds from the soil in our composter as I have the same thing happen here, tomatoes plants pop up all over my garden and flower beds, even window boxes. Just like the dill plant, once planted it reseeds for years and years. As does my strawberry spinach plant if you leave one alone.

So I was very pleased to know Caron will enjoy tomatoes from our yard that we didn't plan on, a little bonus for all their hard work on our behalf. Her and her husband keep a good eye on our place when we aren't there and oversee the people we hire to put in new windows or do other jobs for us.

Caron and her husband Frank, Jim's brother will also be joining us a week from today for a wedding we are attending in Victoria, British Columbia. My husband's son is getting married outside on the grounds of Victoria University. It will be like going home for my husband as he lived many years in Vancouver B.C. in his early twenties. So he was able to visit Victoria a few times. For me, it will be a brand new experience as I've never been to any of the provinces out West.

We have a rehearsal supper to attend Friday night, the wedding on September 15th and then the rest of the week is ours to explore as we like. I will also be celebrating my birthday out there this year. I know the week will speed by and we won't get to see nearly all we'd like but I know several garden tours are on the agenda. My step-son is an arborist and also very interested in gardens so he has arranged one tour for me he said to Bushart Gardens. He has just returned from working for 6 weeks in London, England in different venues, doing tree work even at Buckingham Palace and Clarence House...It will be exciting to see his hundreds of photos from England, especially as he was there during the Olympics.

My hubby Jim and I are recovering from bad summer colds, which don't seem to want to leave us but we hope we are 100% well by the time we leave. We have had to discourage visits from our granddaughter which has been very disappointing just another reason we want to be well..the spare room bed is totally covered with clothes to be sorted and packed for the wedding... its just a bit harder when we don't know what the weather will be like..as I look at weather reports for Victoria this week, the weather seems quite warm with cooler evenings. Let's hope that continues.

To be honest I'm not looking forward to the five hour plane ride out and back but once we take off I tend to relax and the landing is my favorite part! I find the flight from here to P.E.I. just about perfect, not too long with a nice small airport at the other end. I always feel I could get lost at the airport in Toronto, it overwhelms me..Well I'd better be off and get the ironing board out, brush the cobwebs off it, as I use it about twice a year! Try and resist packing everything I own and remind myself, we only needs clothes for a week not six months..I have a reputation for overpacking so I challenge myself to pare back...of course if I cut back on my husbands clothes I can take more of mine!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Breaking Up...with Make-up



This summer was one heat wave after another which can start to be exhausting. I so look forward to summer, winter being my least favorite month but I feel nothing was accomplished this summer as it was too hot to work outside in the gardens. We had so little rain, the lawns and gardens were parched, they are just now starting to get somewhat revived.

With going in the pool as much as three times a day the only lotion that went on my face, arms and legs was sun tan products. I've never worn make-up around home and don't use it very liberally when I go shopping or out to restaurants although there are those who probably think I should!

I haven't purchased a bottle of perfume for twenty years at least, have received some as gifts but when one lives in Muskoka where black flies greet you each spring and love perfume, one tends not to use it much if it all..plus my husband isn't fond of it. He also wouldn't care if I never saw the inside of a lipstick tube either..If he sees I'm wearing lipstick he tends to shy away from kissing me..he prefers me in other words with no make-up and no perfume..

I decided this summer to be "very" brave and not wear any make-up even for our Friday night date nights, for shopping, for days out with girlfriends. Believe it or not I'm starting to get used to myself without any added foundation dabbed here and there, like on the dark areas under my eyes, or eye liner, lipstick or powder..

When we are teenagers we don't usually like anything about ourselves..everytime I'd look in a mirror I'd pick out lots of things I didn't like..my thick dark hair, my nose, my eye lids like my mothers, with too much skin, making my eyes look smaller. Well after looking at myself every day, 365 days a year for sixty plus years I've begun to make peace with this face..the alternative would be for some surgery and I've thought how nice that extra skin on my eyelids would be if it was gone but then maybe I'd have this wide-eyed surprised look all the time..eye shadow is wasted on me..

A new nose would be awesome but then this is the face God gave me and He must have had a reason to combine my features this way so why mess with it? Besides I have better places to spend my money. A little under eye liner, some blush, a dab of foundation here and there, a great lipstick and I've shed at least 6 months off my age..well okay, maybe a week!

I find lipstick never last anyways, by the time I get to my destination, it's gone..has anyone noticed how heavy compacts, lipsticks etc., make your purse? How freeing to not have to lug a big make-up bag all over, my shoulders will thank me..We are going to a wedding in Victoria, B.C. in a couple of weeks and I'm wondering if I'm brave enough to do without the eye liner, blush, lipstick etc..when hubby's daughter got married in Cuba in 2010 I forgot my eye liner and actually survived..not one person said: "you have a naked look about you!"

No one told me to take hair spray there either, I don't even own any and when the wind played havoc with my hair I survived that also..even when my sister-in-law said: "your hair looks good with wings"...good grief....Wings!!! I ran to the nearest mirror..

It's so freeing to finally accept the face that looks back at me in the mirror now, it's not so bad after all, I've earned all the worry lines, the grey hair and yes, I now wish it was thicker like in my youth but at least I still have some..I've accepted my eyes without eyeliner, a dark pencil line drawn from the outside in, but just half way in order not to make my small eyes look even smaller..without the blush and who knows how to make it look natural anyways..and what about those emails telling us that some lipsticks are dangerous for us..do we read all the labels on everything and if we did, do we know what all the chemicals mean..I sure don't..don't even know what's in half my boxed foods..

My brother says if we can't pronounce it, we shouldn't be eating it..I digress, but then I always do..my husband said I can bring up a dozen topics in one conversation..I just say that's what makes me more intertesting, ha, ha...so as the wedding packing day approaches, I will be wrestling with myself, do I take make-up or don't I? Perhaps my summer tan will suffice. It will be a very brave move if I can manage it, going to a wedding with my face as the canvas the way God made it.....

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunshine and Grey Days, Bits and Pieces



Just ask my husband if my thoughts can be scattered..if I can start one job with the best of intentions and end up wasting hours doing twelve other things totally unrelated. Today my thoughts are scrambled, flitter here and there.

We've had a very hot summer here in Muskoka, with temperatures hovering between 32 and 40 degrees celcius many days. It wouldn't have been so bad to be sweltering day after day if we could have had a good, serious rain shower at least once a week..This did not happen and our garden suffered, our lawn grew parched, died and looked more like cement than a lush green lawn.

But at the end of last week, things changed..we had rain for three days straight and lots of it. My two rain barrels are full again, my two wash tubs are full and overflowing. I didn't want to waste this water the first day of rain, not knowing if we'd get anymore so I took a pail and used the water on flower beds. As I gaze at the lawn I wonder if it will come back to it's orginal lushness but I imagine it will be too late for this year.

We are enjoying yellow beans from the garden now and the green peppers should be ready to eat in a week or two..I've thinned one row of carrots and their delicious sweetness makes me want to pick them all and eat them in one sitting..but I will resist. The garden will burst forth now with this blessed addition of rain..

Now my mind jumps to my brother Kim turning sixty! Sixty!! Wow, the years go by swiftly, out of five siblings there are now four of us in our sixties with Dale turning sixty-five this month and starting to collect her pension. I can remember getting my first senior's pension cheque and how exciting that was! It sure helps take some of the pain away from reaching the pinnacle of 65 years.

Speaking of my sister her son Jon, my nephew who had the motorcycle accident 3 weeks ago is making small strides in his recovery. He is now over his pneumonia, the nurses are helping him to sit on the edge of his bed from time to time. He is out of the critical care room into his own room now. He has the ventilator out, breathing on his own and talking to his parents. He has called his son on the phone and wants to see him..He needs to eat more, his heart rate is still a bit high and he is just seeing light and dark so far, but doctors are checking his eyes daily. Having diabetes since childhood is adding to some of his problems, like controlling his sugar. But we continue to pray for his complete recovery, for the day he finally leaves the hospital..

Grey days often make me feel grey and gloomy..funny how I always feel so energized when the sun is shining and should be outside enjoying the great day but instead I'm washing a floor or hunting down cobwebs! Of course they are highlighted so well when the sun is coming through the windows!..I usually spend most of my summer gardening, weeding, trimming, planting new flowers, moving others. But the heat this summer has grounded me and I've felt like I've been in limbo a lot. Also the worry over my nephew has added to my "grey" mood. My friends are busy themselves, so that the times we get together are dimished. Cooler temperatures of fall bring us back together again.

In my younger years I used to struggle with deep depression off and on, so now I recognize the symptoms, either not wanting to eat or wanting to eat more and more, especially sweets like chocolate bars. So I want to keep at bay any deep depression that lingers and debilitates. I need to guard against it taking a stranglehold on me, blocking light and activity from my life. I find going for a walk changes my perspective very quickly and is good for me physically as well..I won't let the demon depression gets it's tight grip on me again. I need to be strong for my sister and her family, do what I can to help them through this huge trial in their life.

Grey days often bring rain and it's something we've needed desperately this summer. I will take delight in the grey days, the wet days as the trees, gardens, flower beds all need it so badly. I will rejoice that my nephew is healing, is talking and making changes day by day. We had the thrill of entertaining our granddaughter this week, she can wreck havoc in a room in five seconds flat but she is so much fun and my heart loves to hear her yell: "Nannyeeee!"

The bits and pieces of our sunny days and our grey days add to the huge kaleidoscope of our lives, it's up to us to control the amount of blackness that forms the pattern and replace it with shots of brilliant color..today is a grey day, it's going to rain again, in fact it's supposed to rain three or four days in the coming week. But I'm going to be looking for the rainbow at the end!



Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Harrison Five, Good Times and Hardships



I'm fairly certain my parents didn't PLAN to have five children, but that's what they got. And what would we have done if our "little" Jane hadn't come along twelve years after I was born? She was my real live doll, I carried her everywhere.

The photo shows us all in happier times, at a reunion at my home in Muskoka. Jane is far left, the youngest, then Dale who was born after me. Kim was the second son, born after Gord the brother with his arm around me, now the matriarch of the family. Why does that word make me feel ancient? We were all getting ready to say good-bye, my husband was taking the last photos of the day.

My sister Jane, Kim and Gord plus his wife Pat all had a 3 hour drive home ahead of them while my sister Dale lived just around the corner from us. We had a weekend full of good food, lots of laughter and perhaps the odd drink or two...who is counting? That was about four or five years ago.

Time marches on and not always with the beat we want, but sometimes with much joy and excitement. Jane and I purchased properties in Prince Edward Island and plan to retire there. We are so anxious to live out the rest of our lives on the island our hearts have grown to love so.

Our brother Kim, unmarried is a wonderful artist. But between the rest of us siblings, we have 7 grown children and 5 grandchildren. Plus I have two step-children, one of whom has given us our dear granddaughter Claire and her brother is getting married in September in Victoria, B.C. And before I forget, sister Jane has one step-son.

So one can imagine with a family of this size many happy and unhappy occasions can occur. University graduations, new jobs, new apartments, moving to different countries, cities, all happy occurances. But also with this many siblings and off-spring very unhappy things happen too.

My step-daughter was involved in a horrendous car accident 12 years ago this August. She survived thankfully but has some memory issues..My own daughter was involved in a car accident when she was 21 yrs. old, had a closed head injury and has memory issues. Other members of the family have had minor car mishaps and thankfully are fine today. Now we watch anxiously over our grandchildren.

But this past Sunday a mishap happened with my sister Dale's son Jonathon that has turned our world upside down. He was involved in a terrible motorcycle accident and was air-lifted to a hospital in Toronto. I know he will get the very best care there,  they will do all that is humanly possible for him as that is where Jim's daughter was taken and we witnessed the wonderful care she received.

Jon as I call him has a long road of recovery ahead of him, a broken hip and femur on the same leg, broken ribs and two vertabrae in his back. After a ten hour operation, he has a pin in his hip, a metal plate in his lower back, a metal rod fixing his femur.  Yesterday a Halo Brace was installed on him. This brace I believe will remain for 6 months. He is still heavily sedated although they are cutting back  but he has yet to speak to anyone. It is a day his parents, his only brother and all of us are waiting for with much anticipation.

His parents and brother are staying down in Toronto at this time and the rest of the family waits anxiously for updates on his recovery. There is much prayer being said on his behalf and we so appreciate it. I find I'm having to unclench my  jaw every few minutes, the strain and tension of waiting to hear what the next report will bring.

Little do we know what each day will bring us. We go along our merry way perhaps taking for granted many blessings we have in our lives, perhaps leaving quite a length of time before we email, phone or get together with family members. A tragedy like this always links us all closer together, we stand united behind the injured person. We wait with baited breath for some word about our dear loved one.

Jon is a strong and determinded young man closing in on forty years of age. He has a young teen-age son he wants to guide through life so we are all rooting for him to make a full recovery, to walk out of that hospital one day ready to get on with his life. It's all we can ask for.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I'm a Beach Comber, a Scrounger, a Bargain Shopper



My sister-in-law Caron and I are looking at something she found on a beach in P.E.I. in 2008. Everytime I visit with Caron and her husband on the island we try and squeeze in some time for beach combing..one of our favorite activities. I bought a lovely white enamelware canister set years ago just to store my beach glass..Caron and I hope to make jewelry with it someday.

My husband likes to refer to me as "cheap" but I prefer to think of myself as trying to be very economical. If I can buy something we need or in previous years "want" at a yard sale, or see it sitting free in the recycle building at the town dump or buy it cheaply at the downtown Salvation Army then I'm more than pleased.

We also have in our town a ReStore, a very large building full of great stuff and all the money raised goes to Habitat for Humanity which build homes for people who might otherwise never have the privilege of owning their own home. Also I feel good knowing all the money I spend at the Salvation Army is helping so many people in a multitude of ways.

I used to buy a lot of "stuff' because I liked it or wanted it, not necessarily needing it..Now I'm become a much more discerning shopper. Or at least I like to think so..I remember my father being a big yard sale shopper and when we cleaned out our parents home, finding boxes full of things in the basement purchased at yard sales. But he commented to me at one time he was becoming much more discerning over the years..so maybe I'm taking after him.

Now when I enter the Salvation Army I head right to the children's toys in case I can find some great toy or book for my granddaughter. As she grows older, she is now 18 months old, she is losing interest in some of her earlier toys..She is very absorbed now in playing with a toy high chair I purchased for 99 cents at the Salvation Army and carried home..she puts a teddy bear in it and feeds it numerous cups of tea out on the deck with warm water until teddy has to have the water wrung out of it. I've purchased many little outfits for her there so when she arrives I put her into "my" clothes so she can get wet or dirty and go home in her original clean clothes.

She is interested in rabbits or bunnies right now so yesterday I found a stuffed one and a cute little pink purse to carry it around it. Found a great pair of shorts for myself and a gorgeous scarf. Several weeks ago I found a lovely skirt which I will take to a wedding I have to attend in the fall in Victoria, B.C. I get quite excited when I find clothes there with the tag on from the store who donated it, still intact..found many brand new items, never worn for under five dollars. Who wouldn't get a thrill over that!

After all as one lady told me one day when we shop at the Salvation Army we are really "only borrowing" the items as a few years down the road we usually tire of them and return them to be recycled again. This year alone I've probably taken over a dozen bags of items back to the store and I often see them hanging on the racks or on a shelf..

Since we will be moving in a few years I have been trying and not too successfully yet to get rid of more things from the house. Which means I must put a bit of a curb on my shopping..and I don't know why but I seem to have been born with a "shopping bug" in my system which has been very hard to eradicate..I have done really well this year tho, only spent one day touring yard sales while in P.E.I. in May with Caron and since returning back home although I read where they are each week in our town paper have kept away..now that's a big thing for me..look at all the bargains I'm missing!

Sometimes when I put things in a bag for the Salvation Army or send it to the dump I feel bad that I don't have the money I spent on that item..but I have to think: "did it give me a lot of pleasure?" and if the answer is yes, then it was money well spent.

When I enter stores and look through the weekly flyers that come each week and see "Sale" signs, I make a beeline to look over the merchandise..but now I must ask myself, do I need it or have room for it? There was a huge sale on different varities of wool this week in a nearby town which I had to go to for an eye exam. So I purchased several new crochet/knitting books on sale for a dollar plus wool to keep me going hopefully through the coming winter. My girlfriend who was with me at the time happened to mention that the four large balls of cotton yard that I'd purchased to knit a blanket is the "perfect' color to go on her couch upstairs in her home..so one Christmas present is looked after. Perhaps more than one as I'm going to make my granddaughter a hat. Just finished making myself a cotton hat and I'm quite pleased with it.

I find it very difficult to watch tv without having busy hands either crocheting or knitting. Being a huge reader I also purchase most of my books second-hand, then recycle them again. Nearly all my library of gardening books have come by way of second-hand stores. I do get a thrill from buying something brand new but my clothes closets are rather bulging now so off I go to see if I can recycle some clothes and remember NOT to repurchase them when I next go to the Salvation Army!

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Brother Came For a Visit



It is still sweltering in Muskoka. We are entering our 3rd week of a continuing heat wave. I never thought I'd wake up in the morning thinking: "sure hope it's cooler today". I'm beginning to think heat of this kind for too long could drive me crazy..there is just no relief  from it except sitting in front of a fan or going into our little 15 foot, blue rubber pool..

Some areas around us have received some rain..we have had not a drop as yet. Our lawn is burnt brown so rather rough and scrunchy to walk on. Our granddaughter did well to go in her barefeet this past Sunday. The deck is so hot we must wear sandals up until the point we enter the pool.

We had a busy weekend, but a fun-filled time. My brother Gord and his wonderful wife Pat drove into our laneway this past Thursday a little after 5 p.m. In case we all voted to go downtown later to hear the live music performed at the small wooden gazebo in the park, I asked my husband to bring home pizza for supper. As it turned out, we opted to stay home and go into the pool instead.

I have two brothers and one might say they are opposites..my brother Gord who is a few years older than my brother Kim is very gregarious, loves to talk and has a way of making my husband laugh out loud a lot! One tends to either laugh with my brother or at him. He is a former school teacher so he has an easy way about him with adults and children. We don't see each other often enough.

The men took in the Pioneer Power Show Saturday afternoon while Pat and I had great talks while cooling off in the pool. We all to met up later in the afternoon at a popular Pub downtown that only serves craft beers, which my brother really enjoys. We got into a conversation about styles and types of beer glasses and jokingly I said: "my beer glass is too big and heavy to carry out"...the young man working there heard our comments and before we left handed me my glass, washed and dried to take home..I think we rather entertained him for an hour with our somewhat loud laughter and comments..

We had a great b.b.q. in the evening and then returned to where the Pioneer Show was held as there was an old fashioned barn dance..little did we know we should have taken our own chairs and a cooler of water and pop..it was a very hot evening and nothing was served there. It was an old barn that had been moved and rebuilt on that site so there were a few benches built around the inside, but it was cooler outside. We enjoyed many dances but decided to leave when the square dancing started  as we aren't talented in that department..

Sunday morning got wild when our granddaughter and her mother showed up just at breakfast time, I of course no longer wanted to be part of making breakfast, just wanted to play with Claire..but I kept my focus (and that isn't easy for me) and we all enjoyed a great family time around the breakfast table. Gord and Pat are very fortunate to have twin granddaughters so they enjoyed little Claire very much. Claire doesn't make strange with people she doesn't know and gave us all one of her special hugs and kisses.

Everyone left for home around 1 p.m. so hubby and I spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool, relaxing and reading. Already I miss everyone. I hadn't seen my brother and his wife for two years and we hope to arrange a get-together again in the fall. Perhaps take a boat ride over in Gravenhurst on the famous steamship R.M.S. Segwun. One of my girlfriends and I make it a tradition to go out once a year on the Segwun which is celebrating 125 years this year.

We were much relieved when Pat called to say they arrived home safely, driving through some heavy rain in spots. It usually takes four hours to drive home from here but weekend traffic is double with Cottage traffic heading south to Toronto. I'm already anticipating the fun times we will have if they return early October, more good food, laughter and adventures. I have four siblings and every one has such a different personality. We are each a piece of a puzzle and with a bit of work, it all fits together.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Heat Wave in Muskoka

I realize there is a heat wave in more than our area, but as I live here, this is what I know..We are in the midst of a heat wave that just keeps coming day after day..I have written off the garden, it's too hot, too dry..My husband keeps trying to water it, but it needs far more than he is giving it.

The soil in the garden, flower beds and lawn is like powder, a big wind would blow it away..my question is: "how can the weeds keep growing and be so healthy?"..We seldom use the hose on the flower beds, we have two large rain barrels and two tin wash tubs at the end of two down spouts so we use all the water they contain. But last night I took pity on the front yard perennials and actually used the hose. Everything is sad and drooping.

As I sit writing this I think back to our looooong winters here, we can get frost as early as mid-September making the gardening season very short. We often have snow on Halloween night. I remember one year it snowed on Mother's Day in May. Even though all the snow can be melted in yards in April, a walk in the woods will reveal clumps of snow hidden from the sun.

Around February I start longing for spring, for the sight of tulips and daffodils, something, anything GREEN! I have been known to shovel across my front yard to my three burning bushes so I can clear the branches that are either being held hostage by deep snow or ice. I'm sure the neighbours are talking about that crazy women shoveling her front yard!

What seems to have happened the past couple of years is that April is warmer than May..I get most of my gardening clean-up done in April raising my hopes, then a cold wet May. But for the past two years we have been in P.E.I. in May and this year is was a glorious May, not so the year before.

What do we long for all winter? To throw open the doors and windows to smell fresh spring breezes, air out the house, hear the first robins. But in reality I sit here with drapes closed, the doors shut and fans blowing the warm around and around. It's like living in a box! A box with curtains no less..thankfully we have a screened in gazebo out on our large back deck and as can be seen in the picture I posted a large, blue pool which we put up each June. As we pay for our water useage, it costs more and more to fill it each year. But it is well worth the money, or so we tell ourselves to be able to cool off many times a day. Yesterday I enjoyed it's cooling waters at least 3 times although the temperature was up to 82 degrees so we left the top off last night..

The neighbours who have an inground pool and cover it at night had a temperature of 92 degrees. Off came the cover overnight...it only cooled down 3 degrees. I will soon be checking our pool to see if it dropped down a bit. On these hot days of 35, 37 and 40 degrees, the pool around 78 is more refreshing.

I introduced my granddaughter Claire to our pool several weeks ago, at first she wanted back out again, "no, no," she uttered..then I put in her one leg and told her to splash it..this was fun until she splashed herself in the face. So I handed her over to mommy but later took her into the pool again and she immediately twisted herself so that both her legs where in the water splashing....We also have a small plastic pool for her but it won't be long and she'll want to be in the big one all the time..she loves to play on our deck with a pail full of water, her measuring cups, tea set and teddy bear in his high chair..she will spend an hour feeding teddy bear cups of water, so much water in fact we end up squeezing teddy bear out..

If we had a button we could push to order the weather we wanted in our own yards, mine wouldn't be so hot, there would be fresh breezes and no humidity. Some days I find it hard to breathe. Yes, I wanted warm weather all winter but as I get older I find these high temperatures harder to endure. The weeds don't get banished and the flower beds get ignored but I get a lot of books read! My husband doesn't even want hot meals, he comes home from work hoping for a sandwich. My kind of guy....

When I wake up I think how will I bear yet another sweltering day, it almost makes your mind go crazy until I remember I have the pool and can submerse myself in it as many times as I want. I look longingly at the weather report on the computer every morning hoping it see it might rain and keep our burnt grass from getting worse, help the flowers to lift their heads again and allow me to once again open all the doors and windows. We are never satisfied are we?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Gardening, Who Will Win?



I've just come inside for a cool drink after a couple of hours of weeding, transplanting and trimming in the morning heat. It is going to be 23 degrees this afternoon so I will need to find some shade to work in.

I am encouraged by all the beautiful flowers in my flowerbeds and discouraged that I seem to have some visitors that are eating away at my plants. One of my favorite plants is the hollyhock and this seems to be a favorite salad for our resident groundhog. Other plants have all the tender leaves chewed off them or all the flower buds. My husband has another suggestion as to what be eating my taller plants out in the front yard.

One morning last week as he turned right at the corner of our street he spied two deer meandering down the sidewalk past some town offices. He is thinking perhaps they are nibbling on the taller plants out front and if so, then I may as well say good-bye to them..

I had already mixed up a spray of water and some old dried chili peppers I had around after I replaced them with fresh ones..I sprayed my green peppers in the garden and my pea vines as they were getting gobbled up..this did not seem to work..in desperation I thought if my plants are going to be eaten and killed off, then I will do it myself and mixed up some water with pink Mr. Clean..As I looked at my plants this morning I did not see further damage. Even my beautiful burgundy blanket flowers seem to have escaped as I also sprayed them..much later I remembered to prevent deer eating plants spray water, mixed with an egg, as they don't eat protein...

I tie stakes around my plants when I see they are being nibbled on, I fenced in the vegetable garden and one year had to enclose all the lettuce in order that I didn't have to share it with the rabbits. Now usually I'm quite fond of wildlife, hearing the birds singing all day, seeing the chipmunks run along the deck, watching the hummingbird drink from our feeder then sit on our clothsline. But once they intrude on my territory with the idea of having breakfast, lunch and dinner, even snacking in between meals, that gets my dander up! We have tried for three years to live-trap the ground-hog and set it free miles out in the country to no avail..instead we caught squirrels and racoons.

I told my husband as we finished planting our vegetable garden this week, if the animals keep eating the garden, then next year I'm grassing it in..the neighbour twins were outside weeding just the other side of our garden and commented: "that would not be like you at all, what would you do without your garden?" They have shared much our our produce over the years as I tend to grow more than we can eat. I also share our produce with Jim's daughter, she loves going  into the garden and picking snowpeas to eat. Next year I hope to introduce our granddaughter Claire to planting a few seeds.

I am even thinking perhaps I will dig up the coneflowers and many other flowers the animals are eating and plant something else that they aren't interested in. But I can't seem to give up trying to have a few hollyhocks even though the one out front has buds but not ONE green leaf on it. My double one out back has two or three leaves left and bloomed last year in spite of the ruthless trimming:

     It's always fun to invite some guests to join us around the table..

     We talk and laugh, tell tall tales, drink wine without reading the label...

     But unwanted guests, the four-legged kind who lack an invitation..

     Just give us a splitting headache and add to our aggravation..

     How to be rid of them, what do I do, makes my head go for a spin...

     As a friend of mine used to say: "There's going to be a war..and I'm going to win!"

    

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

P.E.I. Renovation, Part Two



We are now back home from renovation number two. When my brother-in-law mentioned we had accomplished a lot in six weeks I realized, we have accomplished an amazing amount of work with the help of family and new friends on the island..Three weeks of intense labour in 2011 and three weeks of the same this spring.

We met our goals for this year with time to do some extra work. Last year the entire house was gutted and filled with insulation, plus much wiring was started. This year our goal was to put a cement block wall in the basement and a cement floor. Also the house needed new eave troughs and down spouts. The original eave troughs were made of wood. We kept them partly as a memory of the past plus part of it will go on what I hope one day will be my garden shed.

The first part of an almost ten day job in the basement was to rent a conveyor belt to take out much of the dirt from the basement..what a lifesaver that was not pailing out the dirt..hubby built a homemade tin trough which helped us to slide down 4 pallets of cement blocks to the basement...he then proceeded to make a cement block wall 5 blocks high. A cement truck came two days in a row. 
After such a hard, strenuous job on the wall, we decided to hire a couple of men to pour the cement floor and smooth it out..looks marvelous down there now..a neighbour was asked if he'd be willing to help hubby and his brother make our new steps..they turned out well and we've made much use out of them already..

We will have a terrific amount of storage in the basement now with the newly poured cement shelf which was all dirt before. The funny part but also a very hard part was putting a lot of the dirt we took out, back in for backfilling behind the wall..I also gathered up every stone or rock I could find for backfilling..the men were so exhausted after this job, thankful it was finished. They went on to do more wiring upstairs afterwards, a much lighter job.

We emptied out my shed, no light task either, it was full of many items from the previous owner. Some we will keep, some went to the dump. We also cut the top off a large steel drum and it burned wood or old straw steady for about 5 days..I don't know how any farm survives without one..I also made a huge fire pit after we had a huge burn on site..lining it with bricks from a chimney we tore down and rocks painted white from hubby's barn. My shed got a new door and a new smaller door at one end of the second floor. My hubby is eyeing the shed for his workshop!. I said if that happens, he will need to build me a brand new garden shed..I wonder who will win!

My step-son joined us for two weeks and his fiance joined us for the second week..They both worked hard. My step-son being an arborist trimmed all our apple trees,  plus various other trees..he then planted many sugar maples, two red oaks and pines on our property. I planted a smoke bush, a varigated dogwood, a lilac tree and two witch hazel bushes. My hubby and his son dug up many plants from back home which are all in the above picture. Jim also made the bench. One of many which will be placed around the property so we can one day sit and enjoy the fruit of our labours.

 Trails were made through the woods, more trees were planted in there, mostly hardwoods. Lots of flowers blooming, many I don't know the names of yet, so must find a book of island woodland flowers..also want to be able to identify all the trees.

The three weeks went by very quickly, I managed a couple of afternoons off to go beachcombing or shopping in Charlottetown, but my husband Jim never took a day off..Hard as the work was, it is a labour of love. We feel the hardest jobs are behind us until we start working on his barn and the garage. But for now the house is our priority. We found the huge willow tree out back was a great blessing. A cool place to sit when having our tea breaks and snacks. 

We are finding it harder each year to return back home from the island as the house inside and out has more personality now and we are putting our stamp on it..next year we are thinking of taking our holidays in September..There is still much to do but we can see the end of it all in our mind's eye  better now..As we enjoy our summer back home delighting in our granddaughter Claire we will continue to plan and save for next year's renovation, bringing us closer to sitting on our newly built deck on the island and not doing one lick of work for a couple of hours or even all day!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Spring Has Arrived On Prince Edward Island



It's 6:22 a.m. on a Friday morning and I've been up for nearly an hour. Usually I sleep a good eight hours but last night was one of those nights when a deep sleep wasn't meant to be..I thought I'd sleep extra long too after being up to the farmhouse my husband and I are restoring for our retirement home.

It's hard to tell by the picture but we have 35 acres to play around with, excuse me I meant work forever on, but one needs a hobby when a person retires, right? Thankfully a farmer a few miles down the road from us is using our land for soy beans this year and last year planted potatoes..We will never have to buy potatoes which is an added bonus. By his using our fields we are keeping the weeds down and more trees from growing where not wanted at least at present.

Not knowing fully what one acre looks like, it's hard for me to estimate how many acres of woods we have but at the back of the last field, our wonderful woods start..I am guessing 15 acres at least are trees of all kinds. In my front yard I have what I hope turns out to be a crab apple tree, the leaves right now are a gorgeous red. We have two willow trees, it took me quite a few hours to pick up all the branches that came down over the winter. It's a lot of fun to watch the huge buds of the chestnut tree unfurl and I'm anticipating the half dozen apple trees will blossom before we leave in early June.

There are many other apple trees around the perimeter of the property but what kind is not known yet. But the MacIntosh tree by the garage produces delicious apples which I tried one fall when here. I have set myself the task of doing some weeding while waiting for my husband and his son to arrive, I arrived a week ahead of them..The burning bush out front reminds me of our home in Muskoka as we have 3 out front..I happily discovered some peonies, struggling to be seen in the lawn, hidden by the long grass, so shovel in hand I started digging around them..years ago someone planted chives among them, a strange combination to me but I left it there. I also weeded around my two rhubarb plants out behind my little barn, then started on pulling the long grass around the raspberry canes. Another delightful surprise is the wild cranberries growing in the front lawn.

As P.E.I. is known for it's blueberries, I anticipate planting some bushes as I try and eat a small bowl everyday, they are so tasty and good for you. Inside the house I have been vacuuming and sweeping, seems lots of flies took up residence over the winter. I have so enjoyed cranking out our new windows which replaced 6 old ones last year. That just leaves 6 more to replace perhaps this year.

We took the house back to it's studs inside to insulate so you might say we are starting from scratch. It's a huge job and sometimes it's hard to see the end result in my mind's eye. But it's a labour of love and the closest I'll ever get to a "new" home. I get to chose all the new light fixtures, sinks, flooring, paint colors and on and on..Some furniture we will bring from home, two antique pieces have just been given to us and some my husband will make. Did someone say "Hodge Podge?"..It will all come together and look great in the end.

Can't wait for Monday night when hubby will arrive, he will be tired sharing 18 hrs. of driving with his son but if I know hubby he will be up bright and early Tuesday morning raring to start the next project on our wee house..In a project as big as this, sometimes I get impatient and want it all done now! But patience must win out as holidays only last for 3 weeks and money doesn't grow on trees. As soon as we get back home, the saving starts all over again for next year's holidays and renovation. Thankfully there is still lots of time for me to change my mind about where the closets will go and which room will be the spare room as I find myself second guessing myself from day to day. Everything will fall into place all in good time and as I watch the eagle outside my bedroom window enjoy his morning flight I'm at peace and all is well.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Farm House Renovations in P.E.I. (Again!)



I am heading off to Prince Edward Island the first of May, about a week and a half before my husband and his son. So the above picture could represent my saying "hooray". Actually the picture is a victory of sorts as I'm standing on my sister Jane's front porch. She purchased this sweet house on the West end of the island. After much driving around the area last summer and phoning her back home from a fabric shop in O'Leary, we found it! It was a cold, rainy day also, so double victory for persevering..

This will be my last blog until I return from the island but as I don't blog daily or even weekly, who will notice? My husband with step-son Ryan who is joining us for two weeks of  hard work, will drive out to the island, leaving May 13th. Ryan is an arborist so thrilled he will trim the apple trees on our property, plus plant some trees he has purchased for us. I don't know when he thinks he will get time off to do that!

I'm busy doing laundry, packing clothes, hubby's and mine plus a box of books I've finished for my sister and brother-n-law who I'll be driving to the island with..they are presently in Noranda, Quebec and we will leave the first of May. I'm also packing some extra gardening tools, hoping I might have time to start some gardening this year. Probably all I'll manage is digging out the weeds around the rhubarb!

My sweet sister who nominated me for the "Sunshine" Award because my nickname for her is "Sunshine" has a list of questions that need to be answered and I need to nominate others for this reward..I call her "sunshine" as she was born when I was twelve and she was like a real live doll for me. I carried her everywhere, she brought such joy into my life. We don't live very close to each other, so I haven't seen her for over a year but a few years down the road we will both be living on the island..funny thing is, about the same distance apart that we live now..I'm in the East end.

Here are the questions:

1) What is my favorite color: If I had to live with only one color it would be red..it's cheerful, perks me up and looks good with my grey hair..

2) My favorite animal: It would definitely be a dog. Years ago when my children were small we purchased our first poodle. After it passed on, we purchased an apricot one. My hubby likes larger dogs of course, so hope we find one to suit us both once we live permanently in P.E.I.

3) My favorite number: That would be a 4..I never had a fav. number for years, then I did this quiz and after I added this, subracted that, on and on, up came a four..let's hope it's lucky.

4) Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Wow, have to choose between coffee, Pepsi, Cream Soda, Welch's Grape Juice..that's hard, choose what I like or what's good for me..Beer! oh wrong answer, Pepsi..

5) Prefer Facebook or Twitter: neither, don't use either one..(and to my friends who want me to, don't hold your breath!)

6) What is my passion? That's so hard, in summer it's gardening and winter it's reading or watching movies. Okay, only one again. Reading, as I can't imagine life without doing it.

7) Prefer giving or receiving gifts. Both..love giving pleasure to others but also like receiving.

8)Favorite pattern: I like plaid but it makes me look too heavy, have a favorite paisley blouse I wear a lot but also love polka dots. Stripes going up and down are slimming. Only one..well, how about tweed.

9) Favorite day of the week: Fridays..Hubby and I have dated on Friday nights going on fifteen years. We usually eat out and often go dancing.

10) Favorite flower: Now that's very difficult. But I'm going to say pansies. I just purchased eight containers of them. Their colors are amazing. Purple looks like velvet and they always smile at me with their cute faces.

Now I must pass this "Sunshine" award on so I pass it on to: "That British Woman" , to my brother at "It Strikes Me Funny" and "The Witch's Island",  enjoy reading them all..

Hubby and I are so excited to start our 2nd huge renovation at our farm house, it's a lot of hard work, it's tiring and thrilling all at the same time. Bedtime comes really early, then up again full of energy to start the process all over again. Better get back to my packing, can't forget my work gloves, hammer and lots and lots of vitamins!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I Can Be A Scaredy Cat in the Kitchen



If all one ever had to do was prepare raw vegetables, life in the kitchen would be so simple. My granddaughter Claire loves to try out big chunks of carrot on her four new teeth, two up and two down. She also enjoys grapes, blueberries, sweet potato, squash and chicken cut up into small pieces. She loves nearly everything her mother feeds her, she has a great appetite.

As I was preparing supper the other night for my husband and myself, I thought of how scared I used to be to make meals for company. I wasn't a child who followed my mother into the kitchen when she was making meals to see how it was done. I was more apt to be across the road from our house on the ball diamond playing a good game of baseball. As I grew older and started highschool I was still a big fan of playing or watching baseball. As each new school year came along so did more and more homework, so I'd often still be sitting at the dining-room table until eleven p.m. hitting the books. My interest in food was still what appeared lovingly prepared by my mother.

After I was married when visiting my new mother-in-law, I did start to show an interest in watching and learning what different foods she would prepare. I finally realized I needed to expand my knowledge in the kitchen. How to prepare good and varied meals so learning from my husbands mother seemed a good place to start.

My own mother made great filling meals, not fancy, not gourmet but we loved what she put before us. She also made wonderful desserts, again what most mother's made back then, apple, cherry, chocolate or butterscotch pies, chocolate cakes and various kinds of cookies..none of which lasted long. She made a wonderful elderberry pie because my father would drive out into the country and pick bushel baskets of them. We would all sit out on the back porch, pulling the little purple berries off the stems ending up with stained fingers. Well worth the effort.

So I learned plain cooking, how to cook a roast (usually too well done), make casseroles, roast chickens and turkeys and make a hundred different meals out of hamburger, or so it seemed. I asked my mother for recipes and started acquiring cooks books finding my favorites were put out by ladies from various area churches. They would make cookbooks for fund raisers so their recipes were tried and true. My church cookbooks are now stained many times over from much usage.

Growing up in a family of seven mother did not entertain overmuch. Feeding five hungry kids kept my mother busy without extra mouths lined up around our table. Usually company was our grandmother or the siblings of my parents. So when it came to entertaining I was not at ease, usually my company would be very close friends or my brothers and sisters.

To say I panic when confronted with people I don't know well would be very true. My son used to bring friends home from college, and friends from other countries. He had many Kurdish friends and I'd ask him: "What do they eat?" I have struggled for years trying new recipes to impress company instead of the same old ones.

I'd hate to tell you how long it took me to make quiche and surprised it was so easy. To shamefully say I still can't make a pan of fudge. Just this week I tried my first Tourtiere pie. It turned out pretty good but still needs work. I'm not good at experimenting with recipes, usually read them and stick to it. But my husband is slowly winning me over to taking chances and mix things up..

I keep cutting recipes out of magazines or buy the odd new recipe book but I find I keep going back to those same old recipes that have served me so well. It's hard for me to "be brave" and go out to buy a lot of new ingredients that I can hardly pronounce, to make some fantastic new dish.

My sister-in-law in P.E.I. where we are retiring in three or four more years is a terrific cook. She often plans big dinner parties as she loves entertaining, the more the merrier. I watch her a lot when we visit  and wish cooking came so easily to me. We always put on four or five pounds after a two or three week visit. Once I'm living out there I will follow many of her recipes, we will eat with them and then we will have them over to our place..Oh, my gosh, what will I cook them? How will I impress them when she is such an awesome cook?

I  guess I will just relax and tell my husband to fire up the b.b.q.  He is great cooking meals on the b.b.q., plus he really enjoys it. My in-laws don't tend to b.b.q. very often so it will be a real treat for them to have hubby's famous burgers or beer-butt chicken. Problem solved!