Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goodbye 2017 Hello better life

Maybe it's unrealistic to have hopes for a new year - it's just a flip over into a new day in a long string of days, and we know from experience that those have ups and downs in them.  Except in my case there was that one perfect day back in I think 1995, but let's hold that thought for now and instead look at the tea table I set out when Lannie came over this past week. 

The kitchen table works so well as a serving station!  and my red tea towel collection paid off yet again.  as did the super easy tea biscuit recipe from Company's Coming, 'Muffins And More'.   You know, you plan for these things when you are building, but until you get to try it out you never really know for sure your ideas will work.

Getting back to my immediate point though - and I hope you cannot relate to this remark at all - even if I look at my own personal level, 2017 was SO packed with dreck (Christmas tea party aside.)  I just gotta think 2018 will be better.  Yes, our house is still under renovation and not yet unpacked, and Yes, one of the two aunts in the hospital is not recovering well, and Yes, I am officially tired of spending money which I thought could never happen, but I have a lead on a guy who might be able to help finish the healing on last year's broken fingers, we are living in the house again and have the kitchen set up and running smoothly, and with luck I might soon find the digital scale I use to weigh two sock-sized cakes of yarn before snipping the connecting piece.  (in the meantime, I still have about eight bags of ready-to-go sock kits in my coffee table drawer, whew)

Also, Pete and I finally found mirrors we like for our bathroom and the main floor powder room today.  We have been looking for some since the end of July so this is big news, and the bigger news is that they were $100... for both together!

Actually that is more than a little scary isn't it.

But never mind, they are mirrors and it is a huge relief to think we won't have to trail into the closet just to floss a tooth.  (yep, the closet got a mirror before the bathroom did.  this is how upside down 2017 has been for me.)

Want to know about that one perfect day back in 1995 or so?  It went like this.  I woke up in the morning and I wasn't tired.  I had something to put on for work that wasn't uncomfortable.  Nothing bad happened at the office once I got there - it was a quiet, easy day with hardly anybody around except a few super nice friends.  After work I took the subway and bus to a coffee shop where I was meeting Doe - incidentally, it was Doe who gave me the Muffins and More cookbook - because we were going to a book signing with an author we both really liked.  This was back when Toronto coffee shops first started including living room furniture, and Doe and I scored the sofa and armchair, which was wildly lucky.  Doe had recently married and she had her wedding pictures with her, so we had a wonderful time going through them all and remember what a fun day that was.  Then we went across the street to the bookstore and waited in line outside... in perfect weather, naturally.  And finally, we got to meet Sue Grafton and get our copies of her newest book signed.

The next day and all the ones since have had their ups and downs, but I will never forget that one, and when I read yesterday that Sue Grafton had died (again, 2017 was a stinker), I sent thanks up to her spirit for being part of it.

And thank you too, Doe!

Okay, let's get down to the business of this post.  Normally, as you may recall from previous years when I was posting every weekday, before this crazy home renovation started, I spend New Year's Eve cleaning my office so I'm ready for a productive year of creativity.

Last year I didn't do that, and a couple of days later I broke two fingers and couldn't type or knit for I think eight weeks.  So I was a bit wary about again breaking with tradition... but I have decided to go easy on myself this year and leave my watercolour stuff out on the desk so I can just pick up where I left off next time I get a chance to sit there.

(To compensate, I cleaned up and reorganized the front hall.  Pretty sure the desk would have been easier.)

The going easy on oneself concept is the topic for today. Because as a rule I'm hard on me, and I'm really trying to make a change in that department.  Do you criticize yourself a lot and feel guilty for not doing enough?  I feel like everybody must do that to some extent - most of us are looking to improve in some way, so it's not much of a stretch to think we're disappointed in ourselves when we don't quite make it.  But I suspect some people are able to have lower expectations than I am, and I am certain I would never ask of anybody else what I do of myself.

Life's too short for bad habits like that don't you think?  Especially when you are looking at what a stroke does to a person.

So that's my New Year's Resolution for 2018.  I'm not hoping to master a particular knitting technique this time, or finish a challenging or just unfinished project, or even 300% commit to doing a post here every weekday again though I superhugely want that to happen.  I'm not even going to assert myself over my dream of making the last few drapes for the house.  I am just going to do my best to stand tall when I can, and to let myself curl up on a sofa when I can't, and not feel guilty if I have to do that. And I'm mentioning it in case you need to consider doing the same.

Other nice things I wanted to share from this month and didn't include the Christmas tree from the Eaton Centre here in Toronto:

It's so very sparkly isn't it?  Here's a closeup I took because I liked the stripey reflection of the red lights on the escalator:

Also, I managed to paint this a couple of days after burning my hand.

I am here to tell you that it is well worth running cool water over a burn for nearly five hours because I haven't even blistered yet. AND I was able to hold a paintbrush.

And for a parting story, can we just celebrate for a moment the fact that I've been hanging art in more than just my office?  It's been so hard to face putting holes into the walls knowing as I do how carefully they were drywalled and painted, I was barely able to commit to paintings going into specific spots.  Plus, I really like the unbroken areas of paint colour.  But I also like the paintings and I especially like the idea of not having stacks of paintings and mirrors on the floor waiting to be on a  wall.  So last week I finally overcame the mental block and hung a bunch, including this abstract by Ady that has been waiting for years to be framed and displayed.

Makes me so happy to see this as I come down the stairs every morning and all the other times I pass it.

And that's it for me for 2017.  Happy New Year all and I hope you have a wonderful January 1 to boot! 

Monday, December 25, 2017

And then I burned my hand

Just popping in to say Merry Christmas to everyone here at Hugs!

Thank you Wrona for the beautiful card

...something I wanted to do so much, I'm typing with all of the fingertips I have that aren't burned.  But more on that later.

It's been a lovely first Christmas for us back at the new/old house, complete with snow covering every horizontal surface outside, especially on the cedar trees beyond our living room windows...

and lots of baking that happened at the very last minute... naturally!

I wouldn't have bothered at that late date only I wanted my one aunt to have a treat given that she was stuck in hospital for Christmas Day, and the family of the other to have one for the same reason (that aunt is sticking with pudding.)

Of course, three different batches of cookies (chocolate chip meringues not shown) plus brioche buns for Christmas morning plus some handsewing of ornaments to top the odd present means No Sleep For Tired Girls.

Kinda worth it though?

Then of course,  there's 'Making Supper While Exhausted..."

The potato ring keeps the sweet potatoes from burning. Wish I'd had a potato ring...

Here's what happened with all that.

This afternoon, we went to see my aunt in the hospital to bring cookies.  No time for turkey when you do that, so it was Festive Pork Tenderloin on tonight's menu.  I had the idea to save time by searing it in a deep frying pan of stainless steel that can go right into the oven.  Sear with olive oil, add apple juice and put on the lid, cook it in the oven, then return it to the stove to make a sauce with the drippings while the pork rests. Forget the pan's been in the oven at 425 degrees for 45 minutes, shift it by the handle with a bare hand, and enjoy Christmas Dinner while standing at the sink running cool water.

In other news, Pete and I got our new-to-us 1950s cast aluminum lounge set home and onto the porch:

The cushions are in the attic. There's also a pair of club chairs, the ladies' one a little shorter in the seat. So cute!


Sock photos coming to this space, eventually.

Yeah... It's my right hand this time so I guess it'll be a week or two before I can knit, or type with two hands, or paint?

Next Christmas I will have to wrap myself in cotton wool because I don't want a third festive hand injury after the last two holiday mishaps!

Pale blue bird of hope on our new artificial tree. Thank you Balsam Hill - looks almost real doesn't it?

Hope you've all had a marvelous holiday! with no burns because Ooooowie.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The raccoons next door

There are times when I can't believe my life, especially these days when it's pretty much a long string of stuff happening that I don't want, plus dishwashing.  Brief digression to today's opening photograph:

It's fingerless gloves, both of them from Viola yarns... what is it about Viola yarn, apart from Emily's enormous colour sense and hand-dying talents?  I haven't worn the brown ones with the little finger stubs until this fall, and every time I put them on I deeply regret having messed up with the design I was improvising such that the thumb holes are too big, but they sure look nice on the counter waiting to go out, don't they?  The background for them is a stack of Christmas-present chocolate bars.  They are also extremely nice, in my opinion... I wonder whether I could do with one less of them?

No, I could not.  Back to this post, Mary.

Thankfully I have a drawer full of tea to enforce brief breaks for something I do want, which is in this case FINALLY writing a new Hug.  I have had at least one Hug a day write itself in my head, and I take probably three Hug pictures a day as well, but when I try to get upstairs to my computer it's like all the Stuff Happening coagulates into some sort of tentacled delay monster clutching at my pantlegs and dragging me back down to the main floor to resolve three more crises at once.

(this literally happened on Tuesday, by the way, apart from the monster which remains, thankfully, figurative.  Ray needed me for a bunch of decisions and a trip to the garage which will be detailed shortly; I was trying to get through to the hospital where another aunt for whom I am POA had been taken by ambulance on the one day I was absolutely not able to rush to her side in part because of weather issues; and the condo concierge was calling to tell me there was a leak in our unit and a flood averted by the duct cleaners, but that I had to fill out a maintenance form online, stat. I was dialing the hospital from the landline while the concierge called on the cell phone as Ray called from the side door.  And the sink was full of dishes the whole time, too.)

(my aunt is okay.)


Probably we should break for another cheerful picture after all those parentheses.  Yes?

The significance of this picture is
a/ I am still knitting socks
b/ I like the way the stripe on this shallow bowl looks with the current sock
c/ I really, really like sitting my knitting on this wide shallow bowl and am amazed I never thought to use it before
d/ I bought this bowl two years ago at the antique market for a friend who is an alumni of the school from which it was apparently removed, and whose daughter currently attends it, and forgot I even had it until two weeks ago
e/ I am wondering whether I could just keep it? I mean, she probably wouldn't really appreciate it anyway right?  It's probably not actually vintage to her time there, and she doesn't knit.  She probably doesn't appreciate a truly great stripe either.
f/ I am wondering whether I truly am the worst gift giver ever, even though I did just give Jan the incredible cabled purple alpaca fingerless gloves I bought for her birthday, in spite of really wanting them for myself.
g/ I am thinking being a bad gift giver is part of the reason I have way too much stuff in my house.

Okay, time to finish my original thought:

I am seriously thinking I need to set up my computer on the main floor to increase my chances of being able to post or do any kind of writing, because the idea of a soundproofed tiny upper-bough nest in which to write was wonderful in theory but in practise is simply too remote to access.


none of this is what I wanted to tell you about today.

Today, it's:

The raccoon story

Raccoons are everywhere in Toronto and everywhere else in this geographical area I expect.  Do you have any where you are?  Just in case not, they are large furry grey-brown animals with a distinctive burgler eye-mask and matching dark coloured nose who are SO ADORABLE to look at, ambling along the street by lamplight.  They are accessorized by sharp claws and teeth which enable them to tear up your lawn for grubs, rip open your garbage cans for the rest of their meals, and make wild and extremely noisy love to their chosen partners in mating season.

We have had many encounters with raccoons in this house, most of them causing my heart to swell with the longing to hug and cuddle them.  Not all, but most.

For example:

The house behind us has an odd, sort of 1970s modern upper addition which only now that we have a second floor of our own I realize is attached to the exact bungalow we are in - there are only five of this layout in the whole neighbourhood which is kind of cool.  Their addition includes a third floor window with a little roof over it and one rainy day a few years ago I watched from my desk under the back window a lone racoon taking shelter in the tiny dry spot in front of that window, surveying the landscape for hours and then eventually curling up for a nap.

In spring and summer, I would wake to hear raccoons horsing around in the back yard and would sometimes open the curtain to watch them scampering across the fence tops, their distinctive curved backs and stripey tails lending a certain undulating grace to their movements.

I mean they are SO cute.  Even the night Pete had to open our side door a crack to brandish a broom at one who was about to attack our garbage can we both had to admire its polite persistence, even as we were daunted by its size.

One time when I was not enchanted was actually a bunch of times - night after night in fact when a small family of them were living in our fireplace which I had boarded over temporarily with plywood for reasons I don't fully recall but am grateful for (otherwise, they would have nested on the living room sofa.)  I have always been a bit slow on the uptake as a homeowner and it was many weeks before it occurred to me I could call a raccoon removal service to install a one-way door on the top of the chimney to get them all out before capping it.  By that time, the unpleasantness inside the fireplace was unpleasant indeed.  This is when I learned that raccoon poop has a very bad parasite living in it that is very, very bad for humans and must not be touched without extreme hand washing lest it be spread.

We cleaned thoroughly.  And the artwork I had painstakingly applied over the living room side of the plywood went into the bin.

Recently I woke to hear noises on the roof - with a steel roof, you hear a lot of noises and none so gorgeous as rain falling, but this one was not that good sort of noise.  Coming reluctantly into consciousness I thought, this is either wind blowing leaves over the shingles or it's an animal walking around.  After about forty minutes of drifting back to sleep only to be wrenched awake again I decided it had to be an animal, but was it on the main roof or the porch roof?  I dragged myself out of bed and drew our beautiful new drapes a bit to the side so I could peek through, wishing I was in the habit of bringing a pair of glasses up to my bedside table so I had a better chance of seeing whatever it was, and quickly realized I did not need them because it was - of course! - a large raccoon.

It seemed to be stuck, because it kept walking to the edge of the roof and looking down with just its back legs holding it in place, then forlornly getting up and turning back.  It walked right past me three or four times - the bottom of the window is a little more than a foot above the roof - and then suddenly it stopped and looked up and saw me.

It got up on its back legs, its front legs and claws dangling softly against its clean white belly, and stared into my eyes through the window and the screen which, I was deeply thankful to remember, is on the inside of the glass.  Then it dropped down, and a moment later it was back up again, so that the two of us were staring at each other perhaps forever.  I was mesmerized... those animals are even more gorgeous up close than they seem cute at a distance.  Finally I raised my hand to wave - what did I think this was, a cartoon? - and it dropped down and ran away down the side of the house.  Not stuck after all, I guess.

The point is: raccoons live here.  

And apparently, they also live IN OUR GARAGE.

I have been thinking a lot about our garage lately.  It dates back to 1942 like the house, and its cracked cement floor to 1945.  It looks charmingly like a boathouse.  It is painted white with a dark roof and I love to look at it and also, fear to look at it because it is currently full to the top and front to back with Stuff.

Stuff that belonged to us when we first married and couldn't bear to part with when we stopped needing it later because it reminded us of those years, stuff we found in the house or at the flea markets we used to frequent with Pete's dad, stuff that belonged to Pete's dad that couldn't come into the house after he passed away because he was a smoker and we didn't have room anyway, and other stuff that belonged to Pete's dad that should live in a garage regardless, like a second lawn mower.  Also, stuff we stored there in bins while the house was rebuilt.

And for the last four or so years there has been a hole in one of the doors where a wood panel fell out, and mice and the weather have been getting inside. 

So I was actually happy to be in there on Tuesday with Ray after the condo leak had been dealt with, and the hospital had confirmed my aunt was okay ish, cleaning it out to make room for the imminent delivery of our porch railings... which are finally ready now that it's too cold to use the saw to trim them to fit around our round porch columns.

Another digression, please?

WHY did I not agree to square columns??? It's so much easier to buy those anyway.  We had round columns originally and that's what Pete wanted again, so I didn't even consider the installation question.  But I also didn't consider using wood, because I got so tired of scraping and painting wood every few years... and composite railings take a while to produce, at least when you're getting the good stuff.

Anyhoo.  There we were in the garage deciding what could stay and what could go as we metaphorically held our noses because it really smelled like a bad toilet in there in spite of the freezing temperatures, and suddenly as we neared the back of the garage I saw a light grey ball of fur, size large, moving from A to B.  I got outta there and called for Ray to follow and then we had to rethink.  Well, I had to rethink.  He had been pretty sure there were raccoons in there and was wearing gloves and telling me not to move anything myself since I had none.

Except that I did - I was wearing the stub-fingered fingerless gloves.  And I was trying to help, as I do, moving things out as I came to them, only to have Ray tell me again not to move stuff.

To my credit, I was only using my fingertips.  Some of that stuff was super dirty with - well, I now realize with what.  And I didn't want to get any of it on my gloves, obviously, regardless of what it was.  What I didn't remember was that I would have to get the gloves off over my dirty fingertips.


Thankfully, we possess many containers of Lysol Wipes, so I was able to wipe off my exposed fingers properly, carefully peel off the gloves, wash my hands, and carry the gloves to the laundry room for a good soak and a dry on the laundry shelf rod.

Those thumbs are definitely way too big.  What was I thinking?

The raccoon crises has a resolution, and it's similar to the raccoons-in-the-fireplace one but on a bigger scale.  Raccoons mate from January to sometime in spring and their babies are born from March to June, then weaned by September, so this is not the worst time of the year to discover you must evict raccoon tenants not paying their rent.  I have bought a one-way door online and while we wait for it to arrive, Ray will repair a small hole near the garage roof (the raccoons would chew it to be much bigger if that was their only way in) as well as the garage doors so they shut properly and have only one 8"x8" hole, to accommodate said one-way door.  Then we will hang ammonia-soaked rags in the garage and play a radio on 'very loud', to make it unpleasant for them to stay on their side of the metal wire one-way door.  After Christmas, we'll remove the metal door, repair the rest of the real door, and hire a service to cart away the rest of the Ick; in spring, we'll wash it all out with bleach and start over.

Only this time, I'm hoping for less keeping of Stuff.

Whew.  That was a lot of post!  And I have so many more things to tell you, after I go wash the next round of dishes.  More on that exciting story another day.

See you again when I can and meanwhile, enjoy every minute of your precious knitting time!  I know I am, when I get it.