Thursday 29 November 2018

It's a Jan Brett time of year

One of my favourite children's authors and illustrators is Jan Brett. I've read her books to my own two children. I loved the simple story lines featuring animals, such as hedgehogs and bears, and creatures such as trolls and tomtens. I adore her illustrations which feature detailed borders. Within the borders are hints of what is to come in the story. But mostly I want to live in a Jan Brett world.

In recent years, the Danish concept of hygge has become popular. It is all about feeling cozy and contented and enjoying simple pleasures. Brett's illustrations often have a Scandinavian feel to them with intricate carved wood, knitted clothing, lots of texture, serene winter scenes, and old fashioned toys.

This story would be a favourite at this time of year. I tried to find some pictures of the reindeer stables. There is carved wood and their names are also carved above each stall.

Look at those wooden buckets, and the elves making woolen hats in a countdown to Christmas.

This was another favourite book, the story of a lost white mitten which becomes a temporary shelter for a number of forest creatures. Notice the birch bark border.

Hedgehogs are prominent animals in Brett's stories.

Wouldn't you love to live in that adorable home?

I think I bought the books more for myself than for the kids.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Beautiful Morning

Not a fan of winter and snow and storms, but even I had to admit that it was beautiful this morning. It looked like the December picture on a calendar, or an old fashioned Christmas card. As I was having my coffee, I did my usual letting in, letting out of cats. Samson just wanted to sit on the front porch.

This was the view to the east after significant snow fall throughout the night.

I always feel a little bad getting our neighbour's house in the pictures, but hey, you shouldn't have built right across from us!

Before I leave for work, I do my morning chicken chores - shovelling some snow so I can still open the big gate, giving them a bit more food, opening up their little door, checking if there is an early morning egg. Here are some scenes on my way out to the coop.

Now, coming back to the house.

I love the light in these pictures and the sense of blue.

I think we're in for a good, old-fashioned winter this year. I'm finishing writing this at about 5:15 p.m. and the light is almost gone from the sky. This reminds me so much of my childhood, times spent at my uncle's / grandmother's dairy farm, bundled up, walking from the house to the barn in that wintry dusk, that particular light, the squeaky sound of boots on snow.

I think I may have to start decorating for Christmas.

Sunday 25 November 2018

My, How You've Grown

Wacky weather. Just days ago, the weather was so nasty that some buses were cancelled, snow plows were out, there was just a LOT of heavy, wet snow. Then the temperature dropped! Now we have had a mild spell, some rain, and much of the snow is gone. Great chunks of it tobogganed off our metal roof with thuds.

If you recall, I mentioned that husband put up a coop heater that looks like a little flat screen.

There it is, mounted to the wall behind their roosts. It does a fine job keeping them comfortable. They are, in fact, able to withstand quite cold temperatures like other birds in the wild do. They fluff themselves up, sit with their feathers over their feet, even huddle close together. The "flat screen tv" keeps it just warm enough. They also need ventilation in the winter to release the build up of moisture in the coop. The remodelling of the coop this past summer now provides that perfectly with two vents up at ceiling height, away from the birds so they don't get a draft.

However, we just went through a wicked cold snap, ridiculous for November with temperatures of "feels like -18 degrees Celsius". Because I give the birds the option of stepping outside through their little chicken door, the heat does not stay trapped in the coop during the day and their water kept freezing. I would smash through it in the morning, but by evening it was frozen again, sometimes almost solid in a bucket. It was time to drag out a purchase made a few years ago that never got used, until now.

Voila! The heated water bucket to the rescue. Because husband redid the wiring to the coop there was no problem attaching the bucket cord to a short extension cord which I secured to the conduit with some zip ties (don't want any crazy flapping to pull down any cords). That should do a great job keeping their water from freezing in the next cold snap (which I am hoping doesn't come again for a little while!)

I grabbed my phone to take some pictures of the roosters while I was out there because they are quite remarkable now. Here is what they looked like when I first got them at only about four months old.

The orangey / light coloured one on the left is Buffy. The brown /black one in front is Nugget, and the brown /black one at the back, right is Bruce. At the time I didn't even know they were roosters. Have a look at them now, at about seven to eight months.

Here is Buffy, all windblown and sexy with his white tail feathers.

Here is Nugget, no longer just a little chicken nugget, being a little younger than the other two, not quite as magnificent yet...

For the grand finale, here is Bruce. Normally his tail feathers are in a beautiful, iridescent black/green arch, but it was windy today. He is the biggest of the three, the dominant rooster, and quite handsome. He is, however, approachable, not at all a jerk like the tiny Rusty we once had. I am trying to get rid of the other two, and I intend to keep Bruce. Unfortunately, nobody is interested in two free, gorgeous roosters. I want them to join a flock, not become supper. I personally will not be eating them, that's for sure. They have names and personalities.

Tomorrow, husband and I are taking his mother (is in a senior's home, has dementia, is perfectly healthy otherwise), to have her first cataract surgery. It has been an incredibly long wait to get this done. There have been initial consults, follow-up appointments, and of course the usual ridiculous wait time. We kept wondering when the surgery would be, hearing nothing. Husband phoned Friday only to find out that they are closed in the afternoon. Then, much to our surprise, we got a phone call at 5:45 p.m., Friday, as a courtesy call from the hospital reminding up of her surgery... THIS MONDAY at 7:30 a.m.  What????

Husband told the person he was talking to that he had not received this information. She replied that they had let his mother know. Oh good lord. She would have forgotten the conversation within moments of hanging up the phone. He politely, yet firmly let them know that he had left instructions that he was the one to be contacted, not her, as she has short term memory issues. So, much scrambling was done, arranging to book time off work, informing the nursing home, finding paperwork, realizing there was a prescription for eye drops that she was supposed to be using a day before the surgery... Everything is now arranged. We will bring her here to spend the night at our house, as the hospital is not close by and we will have to leave early the morning to get her there for the beginning time of 7:30. All of this running around and last minute arranging could have been avoided if instructions had been followed. We've just had too many incidents of people messing up, not doing their jobs, that we almost come to expect it now.

We are keeping our fingers crossed that the surgery (it's laser surgery now) will go smoothly and there won't be any issues. They only do one eye at a time, so hopefully when it is time for the other eye, we will be contacted with an appointment time well in advance. I also hope that this cataract surgery improves her quality of life, as she does enjoy watching tv, but must have a tough time of it right now with her vision as bad as it is.

Apart from all of that, there were fantastic sales on at Canadian Tire this weekend and I bought new outdoor Christmas lights for our rail fence. We have had multi-coloured lights, but I wanted all white to make it a bit more "classy". This is called 'warm white'. Unfortunately, I underestimated, so I shall go back in and buy two more boxes, still at the sale price. Today was a perfect day to put the lights on the fence because it wasn't too cold and I could have my thin gloves on to be able to wire them into place.

That's it for me, hope you had a good weekend!

Sunday 18 November 2018

Sunday, November 18 /18 (Gripping Title, isn't it?)

Tonight for supper I am making Diana's pork chop recipe from her most recent post. I bought pork chops yesterday when I was doing my regular Saturday grocery shopping, but then we decided to have two more people for supper, so off I went to Walmart this morning to grab an extra package of pork chops and the apple juice I forgot to buy(!), and a little miniature Christmas tree for MIL's room at "the home". She isn't big on change and her usual answer is a tilt to the head, lips pressed together and a "no", but we figure if daughter (granddaughter to her) just brings it along when we pick her up, she won't say no to her.

I have some chicken chores to do, a kitchen to sweep, some bird seed to put out, and the rest of the supper to make, then back to work again tomorrow. Sometimes when I think to myself that I have been working for 36 years since I've been 16 years old in some capacity or another and only had one part of the year when I did not work (first year university) and then two six months stints when I was home with my babies, I just feel tired. Anyone else??

On a more positive note, to round out your weekend, here is Scooter asleep, with his cat toys on his head, because that is what our son does.

Saturday 17 November 2018

Northward Ho! - A College Visit

A couple of days ago, we embarked on a trip northward. Husband and I both booked a day off work and set up an appointment to take a campus visit at a possible college with our son. It was kind of a gamble, as I watched weather forecasts. We've been experiencing a hideously bleak, early winter type of November and the day I chose was the only "clear" one amidst snowy ones.

We started out bright and early (but in retrospect we should have been even earlier).  We knew we had a few hours ahead of us to get to our destination: Sudbury, Ontario. Quick history lesson - nickel / copper ore was discovered in the Sudbury basin when the transcontinental railway was being put in, in the late 1800's. Nickel mining dominated this remote, almost bi-lingual community for many years with boom and bust times corresponding to war requirements, and lumbering came in a close second as a main source of employment. Unfortunately, the sulfuric acid that resulted from smelting decimated the landscape and Sudbury was long known as a "wasteland". Later, efforts were made to reclaim the natural environment with some success. Thus endeth the lesson.

Our drive north was clear and uneventful, which is a good thing. As we got farther north, the landscape began to change dramatically. Where we live is a region known as the St. Lawrence, Great Lakes Lowlands - lots of topsoil, farmland, big lakes, populated... We were entering the region of Canada known as The Canadian Shield - igneous rock, water, trees, repeat.

Here are some images from our drive:

There was quite a bit of construction going on, as some parts of the highway are being transformed from one lane each way, to a double lane highway.

This shot reminded me of a Group of Seven painting. (A group of seven, plus two, Canadian artists who, among other things,  painted the wilderness of the Canadian north).

Here are a couple of examples of some famous paintings:

The top painting is by Frederick Varley and the bottom one, J.E.H. MacDonald. 

We saw a very interesting bridge on the way there. 

This is not a bridge for vehicles or people. I do apologize for the blurriness of the photo. We were driving. This is a wildlife overpass!! Due to the large number of deer, moose, and other animals in the area, and an area where collisions between such animals and vehicles is a serious danger, a multi-million dollar wildlife overpass has been built. You can't see from the photo, but tall fencing directs the animals toward the overpass. The overpass itself is planted with vegetation, so it is like the natural surroundings that the animals would already be used to. I checked out the web and there are photos and videos of animals (moose, bear, deer...) using it. I just love this idea! There are apparently culverts as well, in other areas, built for this purpose. 

We eventually got to Sudbury, found the college, and did our tour. Our two tour guides, young women who are currently enrolled in health sciences, did a fantastic job of showing us around, and answering questions. We don't know if this is where our son will end up. There is another college in Ontario that offers the programme he is interested in, so we will also tour that one (totally opposite direction, not quite as far). He will apply before Christmas and we will see how things go. 

I managed to get a little choked up thinking of him being so far away. Why is it a little harder when it is your second / last one leaving home? Of course I was teary when our daughter left, but I guess I knew she was only barely two hours from home, and I still had another child living at home. He would be about five hours away, in an area that feels so foreign and different. Perhaps. Oh well, suck it up mama, you wanted your children to be independent, self-confident individuals!!

What is the last part of the story? Well that would be the weather (of course). What was a clear day with even about five minutes of partial sunshine ("Ahhhhhh" - angels singing), became a snowy mess on the drive home. It was almost laughable as we proceeded down the highway watching snowplows/ salters/sanders travelling in the opposite direction. Over and over we saw snow removal equipment going northward as we were travelling southward. Then we had to find a gas station, the first one being closed!!! What should have taken about 4.5 hours ended up taking over 6 hours. We were exhausted upon our arrival home, but glad to be there. 

Sunday 11 November 2018

Remembrance Day

It is quintessentially Canadian to hear or say this poem on November 11. All school children learn it. Not all say it properly. It's not meant to be read in a sing-song fashion, taking a break at the end of each line, but instead you should read it according to the punctuation. It's a tiny pet peeve of mine - the English major coming out, but I still find it to be very moving.

There is a cenotaph in almost every town. Even small towns have war memorials. Here are images to show you what they may look like.

Community members, members of local Legions, representatives from schools, kids who belong to Cadets, and a variety of others gather for Remembrance Day services. The Last Post is played on a trumpet, followed by a minute of silence, and then Reveille is played to end the silence. Wreaths are laid. Often the names of community members who served in war are read. A solemn parade brings those who officiate the service to the cenotaph. Sometimes bagpipes are involved. Bagpipes inevitably make me cry.

My memories of watching Remembrance Day services on tv are always of people like these.
The remaining veterans, and there are fewer and fewer, would be out there, proudly wearing the clothes that defined their regiment, in all kinds of weather. There would be a few poor old souls in wheel chairs with plaid wool blankets draped over their legs. I cannot imagine the memories that go through their minds at these services, and for that I am thankful.

Saturday 10 November 2018

What's Goin' On, Tell me What's Goin' On...

Just channelling a little Marvin Gaye there in the title.  The power went out last night. The clock on the stove and microwave were flashing at me this morning. Coincidentally, the battery in the bathroom clock must have died as well, as it was stuck at 4:00 ( I assume it stopped at 4:00 a.m.).

This is what I woke to:

Samson is not impressed with the weather outside. When snow sticks to the screens, that means it's coming in pretty much horizontally. Not good. Sigh. It was bound to happen.

Son slept in for his 8:00 start at his part time job this morning. I banged on his door at 7:55, told him what time it was and his reply was, "Seriously??"   He sets his alarm on his phone and turns it off and falls back asleep. Honestly, up until now, he's been successfully getting up to get to his highschool co-op that starts at 7:00 a.m.  (meaning he leaves here at 6:10 in the morning). However, the last three mornings have been close calls (one considered a "late" in my books). I blame it on new sheets. I saw these sheet sets at, get this, the Home Hardware in town. They were red and black plaid (goes with his comforter) and they were fleece! He's had cotton sheets on his bed prior up to this and I thought cozy sheets would be nice. I think I've created a monster. I think they are too cozy. I think they are keeping him in bed longer! Who else has changed to winter bedding?

I put a winter coat on over my pajamas and pink fuzzy bathrobe this morning and stuck my feet into husbands big rubber boots with winter insoles in them and went out to open up the little chicken coop door. I have no idea if they will go out in this weather, but the option is there. Husband had installed a little heater in the coop last weekend. It seriously looks like a small flat screen tv! Maybe late at night they can get Netflix or something.

All I know is it kept their water from freezing in the coop last night, so I didn't have to lug a bucket of fresh water out there this morning (in my pajamas and fuzzy pink bathrobe).

Oh my lord, I just looked out the window and it's snowing even harder now. Husband and I were thinking of going 'to the pictures' tonight to see Bohemian Rhapsody but it is showing in a town 45 minutes from here and it really depends on the weather. We know enough to avoid being out in the first snow storm. People, even Canadians who live in the Snow Belt, forget their winter driving skills every year.

I'm glad husband has put all the winter tires on all of the vehicles. Son took the Highlander (four wheel drive SUV) this morning instead of his Mustang, even though it has snows on it and it is weighted in the trunk.  Wise decision on his part. (Even though he slept in - to be read with the predictable motherly scorn in voice).

Last night, son's girlfriend came over. She came back from her first year university for the weekend. As she was going through the den into the mudroom, our cat was coming in. She was not familiar with the "I have  a special gift for you in my mouth" meow that he makes and let him in the den, carrying a small but very live mouse. Before I could say, "Grab the cat!", he had dropped the mouse and it ran.

You may or may not recall our dead mouse under the dishwasher episode, but I certainly do and I was not looking forward to another game of 'guess where the mouse died'.  Luckily, after some strategic door closing and flashlight shining and blocking off of pathways, I was able to watch the mouse run from behind the couch out the open door from the den onto the back porch. We let Samson back in and he sniffed around for a while, totally cheesed off that we let his mouse out.

I've nothing exciting planned for the weekend (when do I ever?) apart from the usual grocery shopping, which quite frankly can wait until the snow dies down. I'll do some tidying, some reading, some food making. The usual. But that's o.k. Maybe a fire in the woodstove (more for ambiance than heat, we heat our home in other ways) and a glass of red and discover a new mystery series on Netflix. Oh, speaking of Netflix, we just found out that streaming Netflix using a Wii gaming system will be discontinued in January. That's how we've been getting it. Don't know what we will do once that stops. We don't have a 'smart tv' and have no intention of going out and buying a new tv. We get regular tv through cable. We have until January to figure things out. We will.

And that's what's goin' on.