When I was 11 years old, my parents bought their first house. I’d lived in Hamilton’s east end on Eaton Place (read more here) my entire life. My whole world was there in that quiet idyllic neighbourhood on the edge of the city. Then we moved up on the mountain to 425 Upper Wellington Street to a small 800 sq. ft., two bedroom pink (with black trim) bungalow on a busy 4 lane street at the top of the Jolly Cut mountain access road. Our Upper Wellington Street home had a very small kitchen, a livingroom, one bathroom (much to my Dad’s pain, with three daughters), 2 bedrooms, and an unfinished basement. My Dad got busy right away finishing a bedroom for my oldest sister Faye and a ‘rec room’ for us to hang out in. I REALLY More
18 Apr 2017 9 Comments
in Gardening, Home & Family Tags: City bus, Coke, community, Garden, Jolly Cut, local grocer, Milkman, Niagara Escarpment, public school, raspberry patch, Sam Lawrence Park, swimming pool, Trillium Award, Vegetable garden, Woolco
09 Apr 2017 6 Comments
in Home & Family, Nature, Self Reliance, Sustainable Living Tags: 100 year flood, Beaver, Flood Warning, Grandchildren, Great Blue Heron, Rideau Canal locks, Rideau River, Spring rain, Sump pump, The Long Reach of the Rideau River
It’s that time of year when the Rideau River’s ice is melting – it begins in the channel with a sliver of water peaking through. I always notice the melted ice in the channel first down by the bridge to town. Over the next few days, it slowly makes it’s way up to our place and beyond. Then usually the ice at the edge of the riverbank begins to melt and leaves a small ribbon of water. Huge ice flows shift from one side of the river to the other depending on which way the wind is blowing them.
My dock begins to rise with the water and bob in eager anticipation!
This year, it became cold and winter-like after spring ice break-up commenced and the whole river froze over again. We’ve had a bit more than the average total snowfall this winter (around 235 cms). It didn’t take long, though, for the thin ice in the middle channel to begin to thaw and water flowed once again.
A few weeks ago, it looked like this spring would be an average melt considering we had a very slow warm-up and the snow was melting a bit every day. Then the rain started. And it rained for several days. One day alone, we had 36 mm of rain added to the 30+ mm we had the day before (2.5+ inches).
The trouble with so much rain here on the river, is that the ground is still frozen and the river still has ice along the shoreline this year. When we get that much rain in the region, it all flows to the rivers and creeks. These waterways have no choice but to overflow. The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority issued a Flood Warning for our area a few days ago. The river is 2 meters (6.5+ feet) above normal level.
The other day when I woke up, the river’s banks had overflowed about 15 feet and the river was considerably higher – I could see my dock floating way above winter levels. My riverside flagpole and flag were gone, likely knocked over by the sheet of ice. The next day, the water had come a third of the way up my yard. A few hours later, it crept halfway up. It ended up 3/4 of the way up my yard.
We’ve always been spared from any river flood damage because our house was built on a one meter (3 feet) pad of earth. During the great 100 year flood of 1976, all the roads around our place were under water and our place stood out like an island (this was before we moved here in 1981). One old timer said Reeve Craig Road used to be called ‘Puddle Alley’ for obvious reasons.
In 2008, we had another ‘hundred year flood’ after a record-breaking winter snowfall – they might want to correct that phrase to reflect the fact that these floods are happening way more often than every 100 years. In 2014, it happened again. My grandkids thought it was great to canoe ‘on the grass’ in Gramma’s backyard!
My sump pump has been working overtime! What the heck is a sump pump you ask? Well, it’s a water pump inside a 3 foot pit in my basement where the ground water around my house flows into a perforated tube buried around the perimeter and drains into the sump pit. My basement has always been dry other than the time the sump pump failed to turn on…….
The water has finally started to recede now! This is monumental in ‘flood warning’ mode. All the ice seems to be gone from ‘the long reach’, which is the term given to my neck of the woods (it’s the longest stretch between locks – read more here). This morning, I was treated to one of my top 5 sights: my ‘lake of shining waters’ where the water sparkles like a million diamonds in the sun. Oh, I just LOVE seeing this! (I wrote about it here) I watched a beaver sitting on a small ice flow as it made it’s way down the river; several Great Blue Herons flying along the shoreline likely looking for a nesting place; and lots of ducks.
Spring has literally sprung!
02 Mar 2017 2 Comments
CHRIS June 22, 1960 – March 2, 2008
12 Feb 2017 Leave a comment
in Home & Family, Self Reliance, Sustainable Living Tags: electric hot water heater elements, Firewood, heat, Honda Civic thermostat, hot water heater, keeping warm in a cold car, necessities of life, solar hot water system, wood cookstove
You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. There was never more truth as that phrase.
Recently I experienced losing some basic ‘necessities’ of life – well, not really necessary to live, like air and food. I’m very blessed to have been born in a country like Canada where basic necessities of life are taken for granted and provided. Even though half the year is cold and even covered in snow, I’m warm …….. most of the time. And that’s what brings me to this topic – heat.
Last month, the heat went in my car. I don’t drive a fancy, late model SUV because my 26 year old Honda Civic is still chugging along and doing just fine. But sometimes it needs new parts. Like a thermostat. I knew it had to be the thermostat because I had some heat briefly but then as I drove along the highway, I froze. I couldn’t get it fixed right away because I had to go to my daughter’s house to take care of her and the children the week before Christmas. I just wore double pants, double wool socks, double sweaters, hat, mitts, scarf, winter boots, and a coat when I drove in the -25 C weather. You don’t know how much you appreciate heat in your car until it’s gone! My daughter Nellie and I drove into the city to a family get-together at Perry and Debbie’s when my sister-in-law Penny & brother-in-law Mike came up from Brantford, Ontario for a visit. We were frozen! Perry, bless his heart, put a piece of cardboard in front of the car’s radiator to help block the cold air on the drive home in the -30C degree night. Finally, after all the holidays, I took it to my mechanic to replace the thermostat: a $20 part and another $100 to put it in. It was worth every penny to be warm again when I drive in -30C degrees!! Such a little thing for such a huge impact!
Hot water. In our developed society, we take hot water for granted. We simply turn on the tap and voila, hot water spews out! I have several other ways to make hot water in my home like a solar hot water system (which is currently covered with snow and taking a break) and a hot water reservoir on the side of my wood cookstove. But I depend on my electric hot water heater the most I think. Last week, we noticed that the hot water coming out of the tap only lasted for a few minutes before it started to turn cold. When my grandchildren and daughter Kristi were here for a week and a half, there was barely enough hot water for a very, very small bath with a couple inches of water. And only one of us could have a bath or shower at a time until more water heated up in 5 or 6 hours. Nellie even offered to heat up kettles and pots of water on the stove.
We knew that one the two heating elements in the 40 gallon electric hot water tank was likely broken – there is one element at the top and one at the bottom of the tank. Every few years, these elements break down because of our hard, sulfur well water and we know about it when we have a shower and run out of hot water half way through! You don’t know how much you miss instant hot water until you don’t have any. I went into the Canadian Tire store and picked up the right elements – there are various sizes and models (who knew a hot water heater was so complex!). We needed a 240 volt 3,000 watt element model with a screw in base. I found the old one on top of the hot water heater so I brought it with me to make sure I picked up the right one.
One big thing that I’m grateful for is that my son Darin always comes down any time I need him to help. Yesterday, the whole family came down and waited (and waited) while Darin did a not-so-quick change out of 3 of Nellie’s electrical plugs in her newly painted & furnished bedroom and tried to fix the hot water heater. Somehow, we didn’t have the appropriate tool to remove the old elements – we didn’t remember how we ever did this the last few times. So Darin and the family went into town and bought the special wrench and came back to replace the elements. Thanks Dar! I was elated when I turned on the tap an hour later and hot water streamed out!!
I’m forever grateful when one of my kids does something for me that’s no big deal for them but means a lot to me. For instance, bringing in a 40 lb. bag (or two) of wood pellets. Or carrying a box of firewood in from the woodshed. Or shoveling the freshly fallen snow away from the front mudroom door and garage. Or cleaning the bathroom.
It’s the little things that make life a bit more enjoyable rather than struggling.
28 Jan 2017 13 Comments
in Cancer, Home & Family Tags: Basal Cell Carcinoma, biopsy, cancer rate, cancer surgery, cauterizing wound, medical research, medical students, Mohs Surgery, Ottawa Hospital, plastic surgeon, skin cancer, virus killing cancer, waiting for surgery appointment, wound care
*Note: Graphic pictures in this blog post might be disturbing to some readers.
I am cancer free now.
A few months ago, after waiting nearly 9 months, I finally had my Mohs cancer surgery at the hospital.
My cancer journey began on February 2, 2016 when I met with a dermatologist who diagnosed basal cell carcinoma – skin cancer – on my upper lip. The surgery she recommended was called Mohs surgery after the Doctor who developed it in the 1930s and is the single most effective technique for removing Basal Cell Carcinoma. My research confirmed that Mohs surgery has the lowest recurrence rates, highest cure rates, and best cosmetic results of any skin cancer treatment. Okay, sold.
I waited several weeks beyond the expected surgery date of three months without hearing a word from the hospital so I phoned the surgeon’s office, who told me to phone the Mohs clinic at the hospital. The kind receptionist assured me that the wait time wasn’t three months but more like 6 months! After 6 months had come and gone, I went to my family doctor and asked her office to call the clinic and find out what’s going on – did they forget about me? We were informed that the wait time was now 8-9 months! Then one sunny day in late September, I received a letter in the mail from the hospital notifying me of my surgery appointment – on the only day that I was scheduled to fly to Moncton for a weekend meeting! After all this waiting and waiting! But it was easy enough to change my appointment to the next week.
The day arrived and I had to be at the hospital, with an ‘escort’, by 7 a.m.. My daughter Nellie and I drove into the city to my other daughter Kristi’s house near the hospital and parked there. Then Kristi drove us to the hospital and was on-call all day in case Nellie needed a break. I was informed, in the letter, that I must bring someone with me or my surgery would be cancelled.
By 7:30 a.m., the staff started trickling in for the day – I have no idea why they made the six of us patients come at 7 a.m.! The nurse explained the process: one-by-one, each patient would be called in for their first surgery, wait for lab results, then maybe more surgery, and this would go on all day until the last patient was treated. I went in for my first surgery at 9:30 a.m.
The staff was SO young! My Mohs surgeon and the plastic surgeon were as young as my own kids! Extremely pleasant and happy people. Everyone was positive and outgoing. I was invited to participate in cancer research which was studying the effects of viruses to kill cancer cells. I signed up immediately – if my cancer cells can help cure cancer, well it was a no-brainer – why wouldn’t I! Sadly, only 2 of the 6 patients that day agreed to participate in this research. My surgeon was almost giddy about my cancer because the procedure she was about to perform was uncommon. She asked if she could take pictures for teaching medical students and I agreed with the condition that she show me and email them to me.
When all the permissions were done, I laid back in the ‘dentist-like’ chair and she froze the area with local anesthetic with about 9 needles. Okay, you can stop shivering now. After the first one, I barely felt the others. Then the cutting began. The doctor, Jillian, chatted about her upcoming trip to New Zealand and her love of photography. I was able to talk in between excising layers of cancer – it was actually a pleasant experience. The wound was cauterized and a wad of gauze placed over it – I was asked to press firmly and sent out to the waiting room. My cancer was then sent to the hospital lab for immediate examination. Mohs surgery is done in stages while the patient waits for lab results.
I waited for 3 hours. I tried to eat lunch that we brought and even tried to drink with a straw but found it difficult with a part of my upper lip missing! Finally, I was called in for Part 2. There was still more cancer in my face. I guess the small spot I could see was more like an iceberg with more cancer under the skin. Another 7 or 8 needles to freeze the area again and more cancer and skin was removed and sent to the lab. Out I went, covered by a bigger piece of gauze, this time with a very droopy lip because half of the right side of my upper lip was also removed and went to the lab.
After another couple of hours of waiting and reading Readers Digest cover-to-cover, my lab results were back and I was called back in. Almost all the other patients were done for the day and had left. I felt bad for Nellie who loyally waited for me and even chatted with the other patients and their family members. This time the news was good – Kate got all the cancer! It was time for reconstruction of my face. There was a hole the size of a loonie or silver dollar and I had absolutely no idea how the plastic surgeon was EVER going to patch me back together again. I asked to see it and was handed a mirror. Wow. Oh well, I thought, at least I don’t have cancer anymore even though I’m going to have one mother of a scar.
The surgeon, Jill, and the plastic surgeon, Kate, and I discussed how to patch me up. The two doctors talked like they were decorating a birthday cake with all kinds of creative ideas using my current smile lines and face characteristics. Then I was given another 10 or so needles of freezing.
I had the option of having a skin graft from another area of my face or neck to patch the open wound but I opted for only one place to heal (thank you very much). The doctor suggested that she do a bit more cutting along my ‘smile line’ to enable her to pull up my skin and make a kind of flap to cover the gaping hole in my face. The inside of the lip is very stretchy, so she made me a new upper right lip by pulling up some of that skin. I had around 48 stitches, almost half of them inside.
I was given instructions for care of my wound and we had to stop at the store on the way home to pick up supplies. I wish they had given us this list so I could purchase them ahead of time and go straight home after a long day in the hospital. The pain wasn’t too bad. Even after all the freezing came out, it was manageable but I took a tylenol anyway for good measure. Two days after surgery, I had to remove the bandage. I wasn’t looking forward to this but it went very well. I had to change my bandages every day for the next week until I went back to have my outside stitches removed. I was told to apply vaseline with a Qtip to slow the healing of the stitches which results in a less visible scar.
I was treated like a rock star when I arrived at the clinic for my stitches removal – the doctors called other doctors and nurses in to see the fantastic surgery and reconstructive repair. They were very pleased how well it was healing and took more pictures for medical education. I was told that I wouldn’t need to return but that my scars would take a year to heal. I’m supposed to massage the scar tissue every day and wear sunscreen faithfully because the sun will change the colour of my scar.
The other day, I went to lunch with friends that I hadn’t seen for 6 months and they had trouble finding the scar. So I guess, all is good.
I’m cancer free!
28 Dec 2016 10 Comments
2016 has been quite a year for me. It began with a shocking diagnosis of cancer and is ending with family game nights and Star Wars movies.
But l shouldn’t get ahead of myself. Let’s review 2016.
Winter was quite mild with very little snow compared to other years. Taylor was home for the winter, staying here and in the city. We celebrated birthdays in January & February which brightened up the cold days. In early February, I was diagnosed with cancer – basal cell carcinoma – and was told I’d need surgery in ‘two or three months’. I thought, oh great, I’ll get it over with before summer so I can get outdoors and garden. Ah, nope, it didn’t go as planned. I waited for nearly 9 long months before I had surgery at the end of October.
In March, we sadly observed 8 years since Chris‘ passing – eight years. It seems like time has just flown by but at other times, time seems to stand still. I still miss him more than you can imagine.
Taylor and I made the two hour trek to the site of the Holleford Crater in March – we had talked about it for a few years and he wanted to drive there in his car before he left for work in Northern Canada in April. It was a great experience and I had a really nice time spending the day with my son.
When spring arrived, I was all gung-ho about getting outside and getting everything done all at once. I guess that’s what happens when you’re cooped up all winter long! I had some reservations about being in the sun since my diagnosis of skin cancer in February but I started slathering on SPF 60 sunscreen recommended by the dermatologist. I was glad to get out and tap my maple trees to gather maple sap for boiling down to maple syrup again this year. It was late March before all the ice melted off the river. There was no chance of flooding this year because the amount of snow was so minimal that there was very little run-off. In fact, the river was down about 3 feet and remained that way for months during the summer drought.
In my enthusiasm to work outside every day, I got my annual dose of poison ivy! But that didn’t stop me since I love the outdoors too much. My 20+ year old lawn tractor faithfully helped cut my large lawn again this year – a task that I thoroughly enjoy! My big project was to plant in the steep ditch that I’m unable to maintain any longer. I spent weeks transplanting and mulching and watering the new plants only to have a distracted city mower come down the road and completely shear off my entire month’s work. It was unexpected since they’ve only mowed the ditches three times in 35 years! And just when the plants started to grow again and near bloom, they slashed it down again! Unbelievable, twice in one year! I give up and I’ll just hope these plants come back next year…..
During the wintertime, I researched the Little Free Libraries which were popping up all over North America. I thought to myself that I’d like to offer a Little Free Library too! So I worked on this project for weeks and placed my Library at the end of my dock for boaters and snowmobilers alike to use freely.
We were blessed with lots of new babies this year! First and foremost, my little granddaughter Elsie was born in British Columbia! Our whole family is ecstatic for Robin and Nici as they venture into parenthood (of a human being, in addition to their other ‘kids’ > goats, that is). I finally got to meet Elsie in September when I traveled to B.C. to visit – she’s absolutely perfect!
We also discovered baby kittens – 4 of them born to a feral cat who lived in our woodshed. This mother cat was just a kitten herself! Nellie and I knew that we needed to ‘rescue’ this wild litter and get them used to humans so we could get them spayed/neutered to end this insanity of feral cats in the neighbourhood. Mission accomplished …………. and we now have 4 new fixed, indoor kittens. The mother cat, Mochi, was also spayed and continues to live outside with her brother. Nellie constructed little ‘outdoor cat shelters’ for each of them to protect them from the cold winter.
While I was hanging my laundry outside, Nellie worried that I was going to fall through our rotting back deck. She sent Darin a text and said that they must do something before I fall through and break something! The hot summer weekends of deck building began. Melvin and Cassidy came to help when they could and grandgirls Kalia and Olivia chipped in too, to work with Darin, Nellie, and I in dismantling the old deck and rebuilding a new one. It’s beautiful and solid!
My cousin Maureen from down east came for a brief visit in August. We shopped till we dropped and enjoyed a tour of the Rideau Canal.
At the end of August, I flew out west to British Columbia to visit my sisters Betty and Faye and my son Robin, Nici, and new granddaughter Elsie. I spent three glorious weeks with my sisters shopping at every thrift store for miles around and as many garage sales as we could find within a 50 mile radius! We visited Fisherman’s Wharf in Victoria (where we had an amazing fish & chips lunch), Cathedral Grove, and Goats On The Roof in Coombs. Then we took the ferry over to spend a few days with Robin, Nici, and Elsie and enjoyed a relaxing time on their farm while getting to know adorable little Elsie. It was hard to leave…….
I arrived back home to a surprise bathroom renovation by Nellie: she sanded, then white-washed the darkened pine boards and painted the doors and cabinets with the sea blue paint we’d chosen and purchased a few years ago. It looks so bright and awesome! We went to IKEA and bought a new mirrored medicine cabinet and another storage cabinet. Then we upgraded the faucet and cabinet hardware.
In October, I traveled to Moncton, New Brunswick for the Annual General Meeting of La Leche League Canada. The week after, I finally had my cancer surgery that I had been waiting for since February 2nd. Nellie came with me for the day in the hospital while Kristi drove us from her house nearby and picked us up, being on standby. It was a very long day involving 3 surgeries and 45 stitches to repair the loonie-size hole in my face. Recovery took longer than I anticipated and healing will continue for a full year.
Marty arrived for a visit at the end of October after driving with Taylor, Darin, and Carly from the Yukon down to visit Robin, Nici, and Elsie on the sunshine coast of B.C. then driving clear across Canada! It was great having him home but we missed seeing Jeanette, who stayed at home in the far north.
Another big announcement this year is that I’m going to be a Grammom again! Kristi and Mike are expecting a baby in April 2017. There have been challenges with this pregnancy though, as Kristi has been put on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. Jasmine turned 3 in January and Joshua turned 2 in September so they are pretty active children. They still have their 9 yr. old former foster child visit nearly every weekend too.
Melvin comes home to visit whenever he can – he works hard, full time now and lives in Ottawa. His girlfriend Cassidy is a lovely girl who fits right in to our family. My ‘baby’ just celebrated his 22nd birthday.
Nellie continues to work hard with her online business, The Black Lory, successfully selling crocheted toys and items to people around the world. She received dozens of orders this Christmas and got them all made and sent in record time.
Darin got a promotion at work in the fall and is working harder than ever. Teenager Kalia grew taller than both Darin and I. Eleven year old Livi continues to excel at gymnastics and has the most beautiful smile ever! Amanda keeps the ‘ship’ running smoothly.
I continue to volunteer for La Leche League Canada supporting breastfeeding families here locally and across the country. There have been additional challenges in the organization this year which have taxed me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Nuff said about that.
So 2017 is just around the corner. It’s hard to believe we are on the backside of this decade already! The more things change, the more they remain the same.
I wonder what 2017 will bring …….
Best wishes to everyone for a Happy New Year!
27 Nov 2016 Leave a comment
in Home & Family, Recipes Tags: Baking, free-run eggs, freezing banana bread, freezing bananas, Homemade, imperfect fruit, judging appearances, over ripe bananas, produce reduced for quick sale, Recipe
A few days ago, I bought a large bag of very ripe bananas at the insanely reduced price of $1 at my local store. There were TEN ripe, medium sized bananas in the bag! Wow, I thought, it looks like I’ll be making some banana bread!
When I peeled the bananas this morning, all but two were perfect inside – no bruises. Amazing that they’d want to get ride of a perfect product just because it ‘looks’ bad on the outside. I guess this is my commentary of how the world is in general: just because someone or something appears less than perfect on the outside doesn’t mean that they are imperfect on the inside. And so what if someone or something isn’t perfect anyway! My sweet Mother used to always say “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” – a mantra I’ve always embraced.
Back to banana bread.
So first thing this morning, after my breakfast, I got busy making banana bread. I got out my loaf pans and prepared them by oiling all the inside and lightly dusting the bottom with flour.
I assembled all my bowls, measuring cups (one for dry ingredients and one for wet), measuring spoons, and ingredients. Then I began mashing the bananas one at a time on a plate with a fork – it’s really quite easy. I added each banana to the measuring cup after mashing it but I know from past experience that I’ll need 5-6 bananas for this recipe. This recipe is for 2 loaves – which freeze nicely if you want to save one for later. With the rest of the leftover bananas, I mashed up another 2 cups of banana to store in the freezer for later use. You can also simply put a very overripe whole banana in the freezer to use later.
Once baked, this banana bread should cool on a wire rack in their pans for about a half an hour. Then it’s ready for taste-testing. A slice of warm banana bread, with butter spread generously on top, and a cup of tea is to die for.
Banana Bread Recipe (2 loaves)
2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 5-6 bananas)
2/3 cup oil or melted butter (please don’t use margarine)
1 cup honey or brown sugar
4 eggs (I use local free-run eggs where the chickens aren’t caged)
3 1/2 cups of flour, preferably whole wheat
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup hot water
Beat the oil and honey/sugar together. I like to use as few dishes as possible so I crack the eggs, one at a time, in the measuring cup I just used for the oil. I beat each egg, then add it to the mixture before going on to the next egg. Mix well after all the eggs have been added. Add the mashed bananas. Mix all the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda) together. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the hot water, to the banana mixture and mix until smooth. Pour equally into 2 greased loaf pans.
Bake at 325F degrees for 55 – 60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for half an hour. Slice and enjoy!
from my family cookbook Mom’s Recipes