Thursday, 24 May 2018

Thursday, or Thereabouts - May 24, 2018

According to legend, there is a day each week designated as 'housework' day; the day The Maid in me comes out to restore cleanliness and good order; the day that, at its close, allows me to rightfully lay claim to a "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval." High fives all around!

This maid is well schooled in all the tools and techniques of her trade. She has no shortage of buckets, brooms, rags, and mops to go with her well-chosen array of solvents and solutions, sprays and polishes. Most are 'Green' at least according to the label but a few are not so environmentally friendly - because sometimes a blowtorch just isn't practical! There is just one thing this poster maid from the 1950's lacks, one flaw in an otherwise perfect performance. Regularity. And not the kind remedied by bran. In point of fact, the woman cannot be trusted to show up on a regular basis and do her job!

Once a week? Dream on! One day, any day, once a month? Perhaps. Is it any wonder I have so few of those Good Housekeeping awards?

Carol Burnett - The Charwoman

Sometimes she does indeed arrive as agreed then spends the day drinking coffee and leafing through travel magazines. Can you believe it?

The only warning of her arrival is the clattering of buckets, brooms, and mops accompanied by a few expletives as she searches for potions not put back where they belong. If she were a smoker, there would be fag dangling from the corner of her mouth.

So imagine my surprise when Tuesday morning, the grumbling woman thumped into my kitchen, poured herself a mug of coffee, then set to work.

The dust bunnies gasped in horror, the furballs scattered, the crumbs crumbled and the big drips hung on for dear life. The sugary bits burned into the stove top laughed, sure of their tenacity to outwit all the maid's solutions, but the giggles died the instant a razor blade scraper flashed in the light. She brandished her weapon high, then one quick scrape here, another two or three slashes there and not a trace was left, save for the maid's triumphant chortle. Then the chairs were wiped down and moved out; the lights turned up high for a full assault on the floor. There was nowhere to hide from this maid on a mission. The broom handled the first sweep, then the tractor beam of the vacuum sucked up the runaways. A thorough mopping up completed the operation.

And then she was gone. As quickly as she had appeared, the Maid vanished into thin air, leaving behind a pile of dirty rags and a pristine kitchen. Mission accomplished. And it was a fine mission, well executed and successful, at least as far as the kitchen.

Wonder when she'll be back to do the rest of the house? I'm thinking it won't be today or any day this week for that matter. Next week? I'd best not hold my breath. In the meantime, already I notice that baby dust bunnies have emerged from god knows where and furry bits are beginning to gather in groups again. A few crumbs have even eased their way back onto the counters, but the stove top is still shiny (we bbq'd yesterday).

And I got my award!

©2018 April Hoeller

Monday, 21 May 2018

Monday - NO Moaning

As foretold by the weather prophets, Saturday was pretty much a washout for outdoor plans yet the day was not without delights. The royal wedding lived up to my hopes and then some. The Duke of Edinburgh looked better than I've seen in a couple of years. Ninety-six and just a few weeks out of hip surgery? Well done, sir!

The bride's mum was the very portrait of a genuine Mother of the bride - open, authentic, real. I felt every emotion she allowed. They were the same as mine on my daughter's wedding day. Three cheers for Doria Ragland. Three cheers also for The Most Reverend Michael Curry for giving us all a lesson in love and for doing so with gusto, throwing some stodgy British Anglicans for a loop. This was no talking head intoning stained glass window words. This was a man of passionate faith speaking from the heart. Amen!

By 10am I was back to regularly scheduled programming - bread baking and kitchen clean up, followed by a trip into town to pick up a new gas BBQ. I am glad it was raining because otherwise, the man and I probably would have busied ourselves with all the outdoor chores begging for attention. The showers gave us the time to assemble the new BBQ. The project was a bit like building a boat in the basement.

Fortunately, we realized that a fully assembled unit would not fit through the door out to the deck before we got too far along. And the rain stopped in time for us to shoehorn it out onto the deck for final assembly. TaDa!

Sunday brought sunshine by noon, a harvest of fresh rhubarb - enough to make two batches of rhubarb crisp, one for the day and one for the freezer,

...a firewood stacking binge that made a significant dent on the chore,

 ...and the first BBQ of the season.

Rainbow trout and in the glass - a Malivoire 2015 Pinot Gris

Today is a kickback and relax day. Time for easy-living and gratitude.

Happy Victoria Day!

©2018 April Hoeller

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Thursday, or Thereabouts - May 17, 2018

Victoria Day Weekend 2018

The first long weekend of summer sits perched on the doorstep. Also known as the May TWO-FOUR weekend in these parts, which refers more colloquially to a case of beer rather than a day in May honouring the birthdays of Queens Victoria and Elizabeth in Canada.

"The twenty-fourth of May is the Queen's birthday!" was the chant from my childhood days. And for Victoria that was true. Her birthday was May 24, 1819. In 1953, the Canadian Government added Elizabeth to the celebrations and set the holiday to fall on the Monday preceding May 25 (i.e somewhere between May 18 and 14). For the record, Queen Elizabeth's birthday is celebrated in June in England, even though ER II was actually born in April. It's complicated...

This year there is an added royal celebration - the wedding of  Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Will I get up very early on Saturday morning to tune into the festivities? Well, I'm not setting any alarms for  4:30am! But I'll probably be up in time to tune in to the actual wedding. I'm sure it will all be grand and tickle little girl dreams of a fairytale Prince Charming falling in love with an ordinary girl, and the two newlyweds riding off in a royal carriage to live happily ever after. Nothing wrong with that. It's just not me.

I'm rather fond of our Queen and her love, the Duke of Edinburgh. I think the monarchy with its rituals and traditions connects me to our history and commends a sense of honour and respect, a civility we all would do well to reclaim. Royal wedding hoopla is not my cup of tea, especially on the May Two-Four weekend.

This is the weekend that garden centres, hardware stores and gas companies get really excited about as winter-weary Ontarians dig out the planting gear and drive to the garden centre to buy bedding plants; haul out the lawn mower and drive to the hardware store to get parts to make it work; and/or drive up to the cottage then drive to the hardware store and garden centre to get parts and plants. Oh, and beer. There's got to be beer. The Two-Four, remember? 

The weather forecast for the long weekend changes daily, but at the moment it looks like Sunday and Monday will be good days. Saturday may be a washout. On the whole, it looks good for planting! So, I'll head out the garden centre to pick up some geraniums, pansies, and impatiens along with a bag or two of composted manure to beef up our sandy soil. I'll harvest the rhubarb, make a rhubarb crisp for dessert and get a few pies into the freezer. Come Monday and the sun, I'll be ready to kick back and celebrate.

Be safe out there folks, especially those of you heading out on the highways and byways on your way to open up cottages. Please, don't drink and drive.

©2018 April Hoeller

Monday, 14 May 2018

Monday Moanings - May 14, 2018

At Burd's Family Fishing, Stouffville (just 10 minutes from home)
I had a lovely Mother's Day, getting a good dose of Vitamin D and doing one of the things I love - fishing. A whole mess of rainbow trout - with a little help from my fishing buddies and the fact that it was a trout farm. Six fine fish for the freezer and two in the pot for supper. 
Now that's a perfect day!

The downside? In a word, Monday. 

Here I sit, legs tucked up inside my wagon, reluctant to kick off into a new week. I'm going to need a little push and a lot more antihistamines! After all that time in the great outdoors where Spring was busting out all over, where pollen was in free-flow, I've awakened this day to sneezing, wheezing, and sputtering. The pollen count sits at 200+ grains per cubic metre with no sign of a reprieve. Oh, the joys of Spring!

Wild strawberries


You folks go on ahead. I'll catch up in a bit.

Such a happy, sunny face!

©2018 April Hoeller

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Thursday, or Thereabouts - May 10, 2018

Spring - the 2018 edition

Spring has been having some trouble getting a foothold in these parts. Since the equinox on March 20, there have been some stellar days, days that have warmed our hearts and fertilized our garden dreams, followed by way too many days of chill and frost and ice pellets. While May has shown far more promise than her predecessor April, as I sit at my desk today, I'm reading of a few frost warnings for tonight. But fear not my friends, a sure sign of warmth and contentment, real heat and blazing light rolled onto our street yesterday morning and right up our driveway.

Yes indeed, the annual truckload of next winter's firewood arrived, all 5+ tons of it. With air brakes sighing, the familiar white truck rolled in from the highway, right on time.

John, from John's Firewood, has the routine down pat. In one fluid movement, he backs his rig in from the road, lines it up with the woodshed, then tips the bucket.

With a ground-shaking rumble three bush cords of split hardwood tumble out. He pulls the rig forward, gives the bucket a good thump or three to shake any last bits out and pulls back onto the driveway.

Job Done in under three minutes!

All that remains to be done is 20+ hours of stacking 384 cubic feet of firewood. Easy peasy - especially when compared to what my love and I used to do back in our "pioneer" days. Thirty-five or so years ago, in the land before children, full-length logs were dumped in front of the woodshed. We cut, split and stacked. There was even one summer (and only ONE!) when we helped clear a government woodlot. We felled the trees and hauled them out to the tractor, which then delivered them to be cut, split and stacked.

1985 with the first of our four-pawed children, Sheba.

Well, there's little more than a month to get the stacking done before travel plans take over the timetable, and I do love making order out of chaos, so I'd best get out there.

The birds are singing, the hanging baskets are up and the firewood has been dumped.

Spring - the 2018 edition - has sprung!

©2018 April Hoeller

Monday, 7 May 2018

Monday Moanings - May 7, 2018

Well, this is timely given what blew through Southern Ontario and Quebec late Friday afternoon. A low pressure system roared in on something called a "sting jet." It lasted little more than a few hours but packed a punch or three with sudden wind gusts of 120 km/h (75 mph).

This goldfinch hunkered down in the apple tree.

And at 5:30 pm on Friday, the lights went out. It was candlelight and wine for supper.

Saturday morning dawned to reveal the damage. I am so very happy to report that not a single tree of ours came down. We were lucky - just a debris field of small branches and the stored siding.

The power was still out and in our neighbourhood where we depend on wells for water, that also meant there was no running water. A two-minute drive down HWY 48 told us that it would be a while before the power would back.

We went home to make coffee - camp style. A 12V to 120V inverter connected to the car allowed us to set up the coffee grinder in the trunk.

Get out the french press, fire up the camp stove and voila, there's coffee.

We conserved water. I usually fill the bathtubs when a bad storm is on the way, but I didn't this time. Still, there are always at least two jerrycans of water stored in the house and there's always the hot water tank for another 150 litres (40 gallons). We charged up solar cells to keep our cell phones working. Unusually, we also lost the Bell telephone landline, our emergency communications backup!

Another reconnaissance drive down the highway gave us hope that lights would be on sooner rather than later.

More than one driver at this intersection had no idea that Lights out = 4-Way STOP. Come on people!

Back home to yard cleanup then supper and just like the pioneers before us, bedtime when darkness fell.

Thawed seafood from Friday, became Saturday's 'camp' supper

Scallop & Shrimp Ciopino with toasted naan.  And wine of course!

Sunday morning we were up not long after the sun.

News of the revised power restoration time to noon on Monday had us concerned about water. We would have enough, but just. I also checked the freezers - food in both was still frozen but I knew that would not last another 24 hours. I added ice to both freezers and topped up the ice in the fridges.

Though not anywhere near a disaster, (a 10-minute drive north got us to shops that were open and powered), it did make us think about what if the disruption was far more widespread? Hmmmm, something to ponder while Sophie and her folks checked out the damage in the regional forest adjacent to us.

As suddenly as it went out, the power returned at about 2:30pm on Sunday. Outside, raking the side yard, we looked up to see the kitchen light on. The first thing we did was flush the toilets, then we refilled the water heater and began recharging all the backup batteries.

My sincere thanks to the Hydro1 crews who worked so very hard to bring us all back online.

I have to admit it was rather nice disconnecting from the internet, TV, and cell phones. We got a whole lot of outdoor work done in the brilliant sunshine and warm temperatures. Had the weather been awful on the weekend, or had it been winter, I suspect my enthusiasm would be markedly less! We were lucky.
Deo gratias.

©2018 April Hoeller