I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

one year

So it's now about a year since I started doing this blog thing. Normally I'd get all retrospective, but I just don't feel like it today. So the blog is lacking (or spared, depending upon your opinion of retrospectives).

Yesterday was a dreary day, made fun in the afternoon by a visit from Serendipity, RSH, and the gaffer for a bit of old-fashioned fun. Three sleds were hooked up in a chain to the back of their car, and our long driveway made itself useful as the car made a bunch of trips up and down, pulling the laughing kids along. We topped out at 25km/h, though from the sleds it felt much faster. It was so good to watch the kids' faces from my vantage point in the back hatch of the car, where I was both spotter and photographer. RSH's attempts to stand on the toboggan and surf his way down the lane was cause for much hilarity.
All was followed with a meal of Indian food - curry and Basmati rice. Yummy, and just the right thing to warm us all up.
Also, I got to see some of the latest bits of Seren's book. It will be cause for much delight when whatever publisher is wise enough and lucky enough to get it gets this printed. I am amazed at the creativity of this woman and glad I get to edit the book, thereby having a teensy bit of input into the process.

Today is more dreariness, though good news that Dad & Mom are arrived safe and sound in Orlando. Here in Ottawa there's a flash freeze warning. Oh, goody.

School continues well, with the girls very keen on history. The book series (Story of the World, by Susan Wise Bauer) reads aloud well and gives a great overview. It's by no means a comprehensive history of any one culture; rather it goes chronologically and covers the whole world. So far this term we've gone from the fall of Rome, to Byzantium, to the origins of Islam, to England and Beowulf, to China and Japan and Korea, to the Maori in New Zealand. And all before 800AD. Our time line is getting lots of dates added and they are very much looking forward to the promised Medieval Feast we plan for when we cover the knights-and-castles era. I'll have to find recipes for that, but I draw the line at roasting a pig on a spit.

Friday, 25 January 2008

nothing much, really

Reflecting today on the effect of the books one read on one's own writing. Am currently reading a book of collected diary entries, and so find myself writing and even thinking in partial sentences. For example, each sentence starts with a verb rather than "I" or "We". A funny little coincidence, though the partial sentence compositions in my head are getting annoying.

The book I'm reading is Michael Palin's diaries from 1969-1979. I've always liked his acting in the Monty Python shows and movies (Dennis the Constitutional Peasant, the father at Swamp Castle, etc, etc), but didn't realize until reading this huge volume just what a good writer he is. The insights are written in a very readable style, and as he writes about the creation and eventual demise of Python, you also hear about the moon landings, Watergate, the IRA bombings of the mid-70s, and his own family life, including his father's decline through Parkinson's disease. It's funny and touching and interesting.

Monday, 21 January 2008

winter life

I'm not planning on doing much outside today; make that I plan to do as little as possible outside today and in fact would like little more than to plant myself by a roaring fire and read. But such is not life.

It's -21C and going up to a balmy -12C this afternoon.

A few warmish days last week (-8C) did encourage me to do some walking around the buildings. I do this on occasion through the winter, partly to ensure that nothing has exploded or collapsed or turned into a secret military base while we weren't looking, but also just to see what's going on in the quiet parts of the farm. While the house is as busy as ever and the two-storey frame barn will be a busy place next Saturday (work day on some bins the church uses to transport our sound equipment each week. Some guys will be working and I, in true farm wife form, will be feeding the menfolk), in the colder months the barns are left to themselves.

But they really are not empty, and when there is a new bit of snow on the ground I like to go and see who's been visiting. That's a definite advantage of winter over summer: the nocturnal visits of unseen critters are exposed. Raccoon tracks confirm that they have not vacated the old barn. A fox trotted across the farmyard, straight along the front of the main barn but not, I was glad to see, spending any time circling and casing the chicken coop. A mouse scurried along for a bit before burrowing under the snow cover.

A walk down to the creek (ostensibly to see the levels, but really to enjoy a bit of communion with the creek as it slipped its way along, still deep and fast but not rushing as before) afforded a rare sighting. As I stood on a huge slab of ice, five inches thick and as big as our kitchen table, left there as the water receded last week, I watched the creek and listened to the odd sound of the bits of ice brushing up against the frozen edges of the water. I was at first looking for an animal rustling through the bushes before realizing the true source of the sound. Then I saw a little head swimming upstream. Quietly, just the head showing, like a beaver's but smaller. I think a muskrat lives in that part of the creek, having seen its head quietly cutting through the water before. I watched him (her? who knows? Him/her, I guess) swim along, not twenty feet from where I stood, and then it slid under the skim of ice and was gone.

And me without my camera. Drat.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

chicken photo op

You're joking, right? There's no way we're going out there.
... at least, that's what I think they were saying. Much of the snow was gone but they were not to be convinced. It was warm, so we opened the door but all they did was peek out. They pretty well spend winter inside their little hen house and seem happy to do so.

confessions of a foodie

I love the Food Network. I love watching them create stuff and getting inspired to try things myself.

I made, for the first time last night, risotto. You don't cook the stuff, you have a relationship with it. It's not technically difficult to make, but you need to stay by it, watching over and stirring, adding more stock when it's ready for it. Bit by bit. Made it simple, with homemade chicken stock and green peas. A hit with all family members, and a springboard for more. Seafood, R suggested. I'm thinking roasted red peppers or asparagus would fit in well too.

Tonight is sirloin tip roast and other lovely nummies. I'm thinking of making a strawberry tart or somesuch for dessert.

My kitchen is downright puny and I will confess to getting much satisfaction out of producing good meals in a room smaller than the master bathroom (make that the walk-in closet) of our previous home. The counter is about the size of that in our first one-bedroom apartment. When I do my canning in the summer I have to pull another table over so I can get the work done. So it becomes a sort of contest, to see what I can do in such a space.

Dishwasher? What's that? Oh, right, it's us. No room for one.

I would love to take a cooking course, learn how the real chefs do it. Time and money being key issues here. I want to take a course on sauces, on seasonings. A weekend getaway with cooking courses would be, for me, the equivalent of a spa weekend for many women. Forget the seaweed wraps and massages, give me a state-of-the-art kitchen and teach me stuff.

I watched Ratatouille with the kids and ogled the cooking scenes. The girls and I are going to try making a real ratatouille some time soon.

I love that the girls enjoy cooking with me.

I love how goaliemom and serendipity understand everything I've just said.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

all downhill from here

Yesterday began a new chapter in the life of our family as the girls and I had our first ski trip. We headed to a local hill for their 'Discover Skiing' program with the Snowman family, where they got their equipment and a one-hour lesson. The lesson time was good for J (Mrs. Snowman, to the girls) and I to get a few runs in at our own pace before taking the kids at a much slower rate. It's the first time I've been on a hill since before R was born, and did it ever feel good to be back at it. It wasn't too cold, snow was falling, and the hill wasn't too busy. Perfect.

Quote # 1 of the day from A as we headed to Mount Pakenham: 'Is it very far to Mount Pakistan?'

I ended up having to rent equipment. My stuff was just too old. I had pulled my boots, purchased 'way back in my university days, out of the barn where they were stored. One went on well enough, but I just couldn't get the other on. Hm. On putting my hand in to see what was up, I found a mouse nest (thankfully with no current resident) - lots of fluff, and a load of seeds that ended up all over the kitchen floor. Oh well. That cleared, I proceeded to walk around in the boots and at the second step heard a crack and the big chunk of the front broke off. Guess 13 years in storage isn't good for the plastic.

After their lesson, a hot chocolate break and some more trial runs on the little hill, we headed to the chair lift which M was glad to see had a safety bar. I think when she heard it described she had pictured a kitchen chair suspended far above the snow. We lined up, M fell and got bonked on the head a bit with the chair (making me glad I'd splurged the $8 for helmet rentals) but we did get on and had a lovely ride up the hill, only to have the girls fall again on leaving the chair at the top. Then, we had a slow run down in which all three girls were better at the end than they had been at the beginning. A second run went more smoothly, though the chair entry/exit definitely needs work.

Each of them was true to character: R was cautious but good, A showed no fear (quote #2 of the day: 'can't we try one black diamond?'), caught on quickly and then her goal was to go faster, and M was very timid at first but gained confidence little by little. I was thinking the falling and head-bonking might put a damper on the day but as we returned the rental gear, a chorus of 'can we do this again tomorrow?' broke out. Today we are tired but they are still itching to get back on the hill.

And so something we can do as a family was opened up to us. A ski day is now possible without leaving the kids. The five of us can take an afternoon and head to the hill, like D and I used to do in the old pre-kid days. The pace on the hill is much slower than it used to be, but we don't mind. I figure if they keep at it, it won't be long before we can't keep up with them.

Thursday, 10 January 2008


What a change a week makes. Seven days ago - no, make that four - our farm was a winter wonderland of snow with high drifts, huge piles, and the fields an expanse of white. The the thermometer started climbing and the rain and wind came.

A check in the basement the first night was a good thing as we realized that the sump pump, try as it might, was not getting the water out fast enough. I sat downstairs and could hear the water trickling in. Really, should one see currents in the basement? Just as I started giggling about having our own underground lake and singing songs from Phantom, D had the good idea to check outside for snow blocking the outlet, and sure enough, the blockage was cleared and out went the water. The Phantom will have to wait.

Most of the snow has gone and the creek has become a swollen, rushing mass of water that makes it hard to remember its softly trickling July days. It has crept steadily up its banks and reached the fencing that is usually some nine or ten feet from the water's edge. In some places it is twenty feet back from its normal boundaries. It's like spring melt, but with the knowledge that winter isn't through with us yet. I'm trying to recall our first spring here, which is the benchmark of high water for us. It's as high, or possibly higher than that now.

I find it funny and amazing how the water goes. It finds the ditches that we've forgotten about all year and follows them along to the creek, but on the way they get backed up a bit and so fields end up looking like a wetland. The ice from the creek's surface gets broken, flows along, then jams up to make sculptural piles as the water rushes under, around, and over it. Islands appear as the water finds alternate routes down the creek.

It has its own beauty, and the walk through the mist and dripping trees was magical, despite the cold wet feet I got from stepping in puddles that were deeper than I thought. The atmosphere reminded me from something in a story - mysterious but beautiful. Sort of like you were being welcomed in to a mythical place, but had to watch how you behaved if you wanted to stay there for a while.
The cedars stood out as a lovely damp green against the fog and melting snow, and the creek just rushed on and on. I still love to go for walks and marvel at the fact that this place is ours.

Yesterday the wind joined in the fray, pulling up roofing that I screwed back down (just on the breezeway, so I could get up on the small ladder), pulling up more roofing on the back of a barn that I couldn't reach, pulling a screen off a window, and bringing down more than a few branches. D had to move a couple 6-foot lengths off the laneway on his return home.

Today is sunny and peaceful, just around freezing. The fields, I notice, have absorbed or let the extra water run off and look drier. It was an interesting two days.

Friday, 4 January 2008

kid logic

Last night M was being very helpful with the post-supper cleanup. At one point though I realized that as she tidied toys and books, she was walking backwards. I watched her for a bit, then ventured my question.

me - Thanks for your help, sweetie, but why are you walking backwards?
M - It's to make sure that if I forget something, then I'll see it.

Can't argue with that.

Today: miscellaneous around the house work. Organizing, songwriting, trying out a cranberry-haleznut tart. Tomorrow: family day, spending gift cards, visiting, and taking the kids to see The Water Horse.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

my own little warm world

Yesterday was cold. Not just cold, but mind-numbingly, finger-hurtingly, inner-nose-freezingly cold. It hurt to breathe out there. I spent an hour snowblowing the driveway and foolishly decided to take some photos of the very cool drifts that the wind had made after the second (third? fourth? I've lost count) major snowfall this year. Within a minute my hands hurt; thirty seconds later they were numb; ten after that I was wondering just what frostbite felt like, and ten more had me unable to push the shutter with my now-stiff finger. Back into the mittens they went, only to sting and chastise me for the next ten minutes. But I did get some good shots. That makes it okay, right?

Then I came inside to have a shower. One thing about our old farmhouse is that the bathroom is on the second floor and the window is not only north-facing, but not well-insulated. The wind, coming from the north and freezing everything in sight, chills that room faster than any of the others. The window is conveniently located right over the toilet, making midnight bathroom trips subject to careful consideration. Is it REALLY worth it? So into this chilly room I went, scolding myself for not applying the ugly but effective window plastic yet this year, and proceeded to turn on the water.

I stood in the shower, revelling in my little warm world. Here I am, it's all hot and cozy and warm and wet; it even smells nice. Just outside the curtain the cold world awaits. I know it's out there because it is trying to get into my world, sneaking around the side of the shower curtain. I can feel it on my toes when they stray to the side of the tub. But I won't let it in, oh no. I'll just turn the hot water up a bit more ... ahhh. Hm, today seems like a good day to use the Hair Masque that your are supposed to leave in for ten minutes. No, cold, you can't come in. Too soon I'll have no excuses left and will turn off the water, open the curtain, and be faced with you again. If I wait too long the hot water will run out. But for now I will happily scald myself in silent rebellion. Take that!

Today is cold again but within a week it's supposed to be warming up later. And oh, yes, it's 2008. How strange it looks. I hadn't really gotten used to 2007 yet.