Ten Years Later ….

Yes it’s been 10 years since Chris died at home on March 2, 2008 around 5:30 p.m. as the setting sun streamed through the window onto his face, surrounded by the loving embrace of our family. At times, it feels raw just like yesterday and other times it seems like a lifetime ago.

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Chris, Nellie, & Melvin 1999

 

We’re okay. We’re just fine. It’s hard to comprehend all the life that has occurred in these last ten years – life that Chris has missed. Life that we’ve been blessed with.

Ten years ago, the five oldest children were grown up and off on their own. Only 13 year old Melvin and 16 year old Nellie still lived at home. Our darling grandchildren, Kalia and Olivia, were SO small ~ now they are teenagers AND have been joined by SIX MORE cousins! My life has been enriched with joy and pride beyond measure.

I’ve learned, painfully at the beginning, to be me. Not part of a couple any more. Finding ‘me’ has been an amazing journey that is still evolving.

Over the past 10 years, we’ve watched 3 Olympic Winter games, jumping for joy over Canada’s gold medals in hockey. Chris would have loved that. Ten springs, summers, falls, and winters.

Not too much has changed around the house. A few years ago, my grown kids fixed the mudroom door and built a new deck out back. I still have my pond that Chris built for me – and I look after it faithfully, bringing in the goldfish every fall with the help of Kalia.

 

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Until recently, nothing much changed inside the house. I wanted things to stay just as they were: the paint that Chris put on the walls has been comforting. Recently though, with Nellie’s encouragement and support, I’m ready for change. I’m ready for fresh paint now! And Nellie’s started painting – her Daddy would be proud of her because she’s pretty darn good at it! We started with my bedroom because I had mold growing in the corners – Nellie and Taylor ripped out the drywall right down to the studs and replaced the insulation and drywall. Then Nellie and I taped and mudded it. Now Nellie is painting the entire room, door, and trim. Thanks Nellie! And for the first time in my entire life, I have my very own new bedroom furniture! I don’t have to share it with my sister (love you Bet even though you used to kick me out of our bed for breathing too loud when we were growing up, hehe) or husband or wee ones or anyone ~ just for me! It only took 65 years. It’s beautiful!

Next is the livingroom painting and finishing up a few jobs (like the floor) that Chris was too sick to do – Nellie is on a roll.

Every day we think of Chris and miss him.

Moving forward, crawling at times, but definitely moving forward.

 

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Kittens

When our kids were growing up, we seemed to have kittens around every few years. It all started because our neighbour Ed’s cat had kittens and we obligingly said we’d take the cute furry, white one who we named Princess (as in Princess Leia from Star Wars > she also had a brother named Chewy, who my other neighbour Nicky adopted).
Princess was a lovely, cuddly, furry lap cat. Soon, she became a mother to Obi and Rainbow, both pure white, furry male kittens. We became a family. Before we could get Princess spayed, she gave birth to 4 more pure white, furry kittens! Sadly, Princess got hit by a car when the kittens were 4 weeks old so we started them on softened kitten food. We found homes for three of the kittens but decided to keep the ‘runt’ called Dali, who had a rough start. Life went on and soon some of our white cats began to disappear and we were left with just Obi who lived until he was 12.

Nellie&Rainbow&DaddyWM

Daddy reading Nellie and Rainbow a story 1994

 

Fast forward to this past January. A feral cat who has lived in our neighbourhood for a number of years showed up in our backyard……. with 3 kittens in tow. I figured the kitties were about 6 weeks old. They were SO cute and it was SO cold outside (January!)…….. so I couldn’t resist feeding them to give them sustenance in order to survive a brutal winter. Wouldn’t you? I couldn’t be so heartless as to turn my back on them.
Nellie gave them all names: Mother Cat, Mochi (a cute ginger cat), Mandu (striped tabby), and Dimsum (striped/slightly mottled tabby) – we called the latter two, the twins. They remained alive and feral all winter.
One day in the spring, I made a discovery: Mother Cat was a mother again to a litter of 4 more kittens who lived in the woodpile at the side of the garage! These kittens seem to be about 4-6 weeks old.  That very same day, I accidentally left the garage door open and found out the Mochi was a mother to newborn kittens when I caught her bringing several kittens into the garage! She was real fast and had two of them behind all the junk before I could stop her. I left the door open that night as she’d never been inside before and I didn’t want her freaking out – and I didn’t know how many kittens there were. But I had my car parked in there and I had to figure out another plan for her.

Mochi's babiesWM

Our ‘little sausages’

 

The wood shed. I wasn’t using the wood shed at this time of year so I hoped she would move them there (she was moving them from place to place in the garage). I opened up the back doors to the wood shed and left them open, giving her a chance to bring them inside – I even put down a little piece of foam and tiny hunk of carpet. I wasn’t disappointed because the next morning after I fed the ‘outside cats’ I snuck into the wood shed and found 4 little baby kittens who looked like sausages all lined up in a row: 2 ginger and two blackish coloured.

pettingWM

 

Mother Cat’s kittens remained beside the garage and were spooked every time we went over there to try to civilize them. They remained ‘untouchable’ and feral. But we didn’t want that to happen to these new kittens. We knew we had to get them used to humans in order to catch them to get them all spayed/neutered when the time comes. So every time Mochi was eating, we’d go into the woodshed and ‘handle’ them, getting them used to us. And, of course, we gave them names: the two ginger males are Haru and Gogooma; and the two mottled black females and Jin and Min. Slowly, they became friendly and were unafraid of us. When they began to venture outside, they would come up to us for petting. But Mochi was still staying far away from us. Mandu ran like hell any time we went outside and Dimsum had gone to live somewhere else (we’ve only seen him once since the spring). Mother Cat must have figured it was getting crowded around here so one evening she led her 4 new kittens trotting down the driveway and left! She’d come around to eat every day at first but hasn’t shown up lately.

outside playingWM

 

The worse thing is that Mochi brings home dead moles for the kittens to snack on almost every morinng! They are getting plenty of cat food but she insists on providing for her young with fresh kill. It’s disgusting to have to pick up these dead rodents with a plastic bag over my hand, put them in another plastic bag, and take them across the road and throw them into the forest. I don’t want them to eat them because it will likely give them worms or something else.
Now that we’re on the other side of summer, we knew that we’d have to make inside accommodations for these ‘outside’ kittens especially if we’re going to get them fixed in a few months. We already have an inside cat, Dante, and I’m not interested in a houseful of new cats. But they are welcome to stay in the mudroom where they will be safe from winter storms and predators. We began this week leaving the back screen door propped open and moved their food inside. They spent one day going in but mostly out and since then are quite comfortable with being indoors. Nellie even bought them a couple of kitty beds and a litter box – which they now know how to use (important for their post surgery recovery). They’ve even spent the past few nights in there quite comfortably! Even Mochi! We tease her inside with kitty-treats because we know she would freak out and rip the screen door to shreds if she was separated and left outside.

MudroomWM

 

And this morning I found scaredy-cat Mandu inside the mudroom eating too.
So now we have a whole bunch of kitties! We love watching them play and wrestle with each other then suddenly flop down for a nap. They especially love to play ‘jungle kitty’ around my spider plants out on the deck.

nappingWM
Nellie has claimed responsibility for their care, food, and vet bills.
They ARE adorable though 😉

cutiesWM

Nettle Tea

I love tea – yes, I’m a real ‘tea granny’. I also like iced tea. When I went to Florida a few years ago with some of my grown kids/grandkids, I learned that you had to ask for ‘hot tea’ is you did not want ice tea.

NettlesWM

 
I’ve already harvested my first batch of Stinging Nettle found growing wild around my yard near the pond, river, and (unfortunately) the playhouse, where a big bunch was leaning into the porch blocking the door just waiting to brush against bare skin, stinging it for hours. Nettle is one of those amazing plants that I love and dislike. I don’t like how the raw plant stings my skin but I just love the great, healthy tea that it makes.
I picked the leaves with heavy garden gloves on to avoid the sting. I actually cut off each leaf and put it in a bag closepinned to my pants. When I got back up to the house, I blew off each leaf and placed it in my dehydrator to dry overnight.

Drying Nettles

Nettles in the Dehydrator

The next morning it was done – shrunken, crisp and ready to crumble into a glass jar to store. But first I had to make a batch of nettle ice tea to keep in the fridge for the upcoming days of heat and humidity. I fill a large tea strainer with as much dried nettle as I can stuff in. Then I place it in a glass Mason jar and fill it with boiling water. It takes hours to cool before I put it in the fridge. I leave in the strainer for at least a day to get all the flavour and nutrients I can.
I love nettle ice tea sweetened with my own maple syrup that I made this spring and with a slice of frozen lemon (to keep it cold) – especially after I come in from working outdoors in the garden for a few hours. Usually after I’m done with a glass of nettle ice tea, I refill it with water, keeping the lemon to add a delicious tarty flavour.
I wrote about Nettles a few years ago if you want to read about it here  https://grammomsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/nettles/ .

Nettle2WM

Dear Lawn Tractor,

 

Thank you for your 21 years of service to our family. Every time you cut the grass for me, I get to ride on you while the breeze cools me, watching the sparkling river, seeing how my garden is growing, or looking at the fish as we zoom past the pond. I’m grateful every time you start without complaint.

LawnTractorWM

 

I apologize for ignoring your needs especially over the past 8 years. I’m sorry for not changing your oil for 10 years. I’m so grateful that even with such inexcusable treatment, you still keep on going. Well, I did sort of have an excuse because I couldn’t get your oil plug off – it was screwed in SO tight by Chris that I didn’t have the strength to undo it. But yesterday, I was determined!

OilPlugWM

Removing Oil Plug – it helps having the right tool!

 

Luckily, my motto is “never give up” so I put all my brute force behind it, with echos of Chris saying “give ‘er!” and reminding me in my thoughts to just ‘force it’. Well it worked! And I felt the screw budge and finally start to turn! Eureka! It helped finding the right tool that would fit in the slot (among the hundreds of options I had in Chris’ tool chest). So now your engine can bath in fresh new 5W30 oil instead of that black stuff that came pouring out – all 4 liters of it……… sorry I overfilled your oil. You don’t have to apologize to me for not wanting to keep running especially when I kept adding oil beyond the safe limit.
I know you have more energy now too! That new battery must feel like a Red Bull energy drink! I realize that when you refused to start last September you were just putting your foot down and begging me to pay attention. I’m really glad that you continued to work through the long summer without much complaint even though you had every right to quit. Thanks for going on strike so I would be forced to attend to your needs.

AirFiltersOldNewWM

Left:  old air cleaner.  Right:  new air cleaner

 

Did you notice that I put in a new air cleaner? And a new fuel filter? And a fresh new spark plug? I’m sure you did because you ran SO smoothly when I cut the grass last night I almost felt that you were dancing for joy!
I was glad to clean up around your insides of all the debrise and oily dirt. And I dusted off your outside too. I promise to give you a wash soon.
My dear lawn tractor, you have been a vital part of this family helping to maintain our property over the years. You go girl! (Of course you’re a girl with THAT much stamina)

 

backyardWM

Backyard at sunrise

Fireworks!

After a long, cold winter, we’ve celebrated the beginning of summer with a neighbourhood bonfire at our place on the Victoria Day long weekend in May. The entire neighbourhood, family, and friends were invited over after supper to sit around the campfire and catch-up on the news while the kids played. There were games like tag, volleyball, frisbee, badminton or bocce. Kids and adults alike could bring their fishing rods and cast away trying to catch little sunfish or larger pike from the river. We’d start the bonfire early, before dark, to get the most out of the party. Everyone would bring snacks to share and beverages for themselves as well as some fireworks to add to the communal collection for after dark.

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Neighbourhood dogs were also welcome as they liked to play with each other too. Everyone took their pet home before the fireworks began though because they were usually terrified of the loud bangs.
As dark closed in on us just after 9:00 p.m., everyone gathered closer to the campfire to wait until it was pitch black in the sky. Then the fireworks would begin!

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The older, teenage children were allowed to be in charge of the fireworks display. It was an honour to finally be old enough to set them off instead of just watching them. We usually had 3 or 4 five gallon buckets filled with sand to put each piece of fireworks in which were set up along the waterfront. The teenage ‘pyrotechnicians’ had already organized the fireworks during the daylight and decided in which order they would be set off and who would do it. It was quite the organizational feat! While waiting for dark, the younger children got to use Sparklers, with parental supervision – mostly there were no incidents of being burned with their own or someone else’s sparkler. The burned wires were put into the bonfire pit rather than left on the grass to damage my lawn tractor or bare feet.
Once the campfire died down to low embers after dark, it was time! The dogs were all taken home (and locked inside) and the adults and younger children sat about 25+ feet away waiting in excited anticipation for the fireworks display to begin! Years ago, we had driven to community fireworks displays in small towns and even the capital of Canada, Ottawa on Canada Day , so the children could see these amazing colours in the dark sky. It was always crowded, buggy, and a traffic nightmare to get home. Our homegrown neighbourhood fireworks and bonfire was just right.

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Over the years, all the older children who were in charge of the fireworks display did an excellent job! They set them off over the river with a multitude of different types of fireworks including rockets, roman candles, cone fountains, strobes, flares, pinwheels, etc. We always concluded with my personal favourite, The Burning Schoolhouse(s) – sometimes we had several.
After fireworks, everyone gathered around the bonfire to chat, roast marshmallows, play guitar, and sing songs. One former neighbour had a talent of writing songs and sang them at our neighbourhood parties, to everyone’s delight – some of the titles were: The Firetruck Song (that’s another story of one of our bonfire events); The Trespassing Song; and Mike always did an animated recitation of “The Cremation of Sam McGee” to everyone’s delight in front of the glowing campfire! Other favourite campfire songs over the years include “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” and “They Built the Ship Titanic” plus I always loved it when someone played guitar and sang Gordon Lightfoot songs like “Black Day in July” or “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” or “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. And of course, my granddaughter Kalia’s favourite “Moonshadow” (by Cat Stevens in the 1970’s). It’s a good thing we love music because now my children know how to play guitar and sing my favourite tunes! The little children and babies would fall asleep in their parent’s arms and be carried home in the dark after the embers in the campfire burned down.

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These days, we usually have a family bonfire at my son Darin’s place. It’s smaller and cozier but still has all the familiar songs, Smores, and roasted marshmallows!  And besides, I have trouble staying awake until after dark for fireworks now anyway!
Happy Victoria Day Canada and Happy Memorial Day U.S.A!

fireworks set

Poison Ivy

 

It loves me. It stalks me. It finds me. Every single year. No matter how careful I am to avoid it, Poison Ivy hunts me down and infects me. “Leaves of three, let them be”. Ya, right……

I wear long sleeves and gloves and try to stay away from this monstrous plant which resides under the cedars out front. Poison Ivy releases Urushiol oil which is so potent that only one nanogram (billionth of a gram) is needed to cause a rash. The problem is that I sweat a lot when I work, especially with long sleeves and pants, so my open pores absorb the resin deeply into my skin. I’m aware that poison ivy is out to get me so I’m careful about removing my outer clothing in the mudroom before I come in the house.

poison ivy
I wash my exposed face and neck with Sunlight laundry bar soap as soon as a get in the house to get off any Poison Ivy residue. But it LOVES me too much to let me go! I saw two plants this week while I was mulching and I didn’t touch them but covered them with about 6″ of mulch. TWO PLANTS!! Two lousy plants!
The ‘blisters’ started to come out the next day. First below my lower lip then beside my right eye. Then my forearms had tons of little spots that started to itch. Two years ago, the poison ivy was so bad on my face that my eyes were swollen shut – it was time for medical intervention. My daughter drove me to the doctors and I was prescribed Prednisone. I hated to take it but I was desperate – and it worked like a charm.
I’ve tried many remedies to reduce the itching: Calamine lotion; rubbing alcohol; hydrocortisone cream; letting Sunlight laundry soap bar dry on my skin; taking mega doses of garlic and vitamin C; you name it! But nothing really works for me – it just has to run it’s course which takes about 3-4 weeks. This year, when my right eye started to swell shut and the itchy blisters covered my forearms, I had to resign to a 5 day course of Prednisone and benadryl. 😦

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Two years ago my eyes swelled shut

I made some forearm ‘sleeves’ from old socks to cover the oozing blisters and prevent me from scratching. I’m trying to avoid scratching which can be a real test.
I have tried, in the past, to eradicate each plant – vinegar; covering it with a jar or can (hopefully it would suffocate); leaving it alone and hoping it would go away. One year I was SO desperate that I even bought RoundUp to kill it. Then I couldn’t bear to use it on all of them (maybe I should have…..) because I’m a supporter of a healthy ecosystem.
Maybe all I have to do is simply stay away from that part of my garden and let the whole area run wild! I’m just a sucker for punishment I guess.

Dish Washing

I have a dishwasher. I’ve had a dishwasher almost since I became an adult when I moved out of my parents home and eloped at 18 years old. My first dishwasher was a cute, efficient little table-top model which sat on the counter and was hooked up to the tap. It was marvelous even though it took up the entire counter space. As a busy university student, I didn’t have the time or interest to do something as mundane as washing dishes.
When my first baby was born, I was even busier. I evaluated my time vs. money spent on a dishwasher. My time with my baby was the most important and I still didn’t like washing dishes. So I figured out a solution: I cloth diapered (disposable diapers where a new fad) and breastfed my baby and saved money. After doing the numbers, I concluded that I would pay for a dishwasher in 6 months with the money I saved by breastfeeding and washing the diapers. So we bought a portable dishwasher.
I have even fixed my dishwasher when it was broken. Mostly times when it was plugged or the timer was broke (I ordered a new timer). Once, after struggling to fix a plugged line, I finally gave up and called the repairman: he was there for 10 minutes, pulled out the peanut which was plugging the line and handed me a $45 bill!

repairWM

 
My current dishwasher is showing it’s age. But as long as it works, I’ll keep it. Late last year, after a family dinner, I found it plugged. After soaking up all the nasty standing water with towels, I took the draining area apart and cleaned it thoroughly, using a toothbrush to clean all screens. I even took pictures of every step just in case my memory failed me when it came time to put it all back together. Then I sprinkled a liberal amount of baking soda on the drain and soaked the bottom in vinegar – it fizzled up like the school volcano projects!  I boiled the kettle while I let it sit for 15 minutes. Instead of making tea this time, I poured the slightly cooled-down boiled water into the bottom of the dishwasher and let it sit for another 15 minutes. Then I ran it through a short cycle – and voila, it was unclogged!
Now that my dishwasher was almost as good as new, I noticed that the wire racks were really rusty in spots. I went online to research what to do and discovered that they make a special paint to repair dishwasher racks called ‘Rerack’. I figured that while I was at it, I might as well fix that too so I ordered some from my local Home Hardware store.
BUT THE MOST AMAZING THING HAPPENED WHILE I WAS ON THIS DISHWASHER ADVENTURE! I started doing dishes by hand again! And I loved it! Actually, I’ve only used my dishwasher twice since late last year. With just two people in the house, it used to take 3 days to fill the dishwasher and by then it was kind of smelly even though we rinsed off the dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. Every night after supper, Nellie and I take turns washing the dishes by hand. The two of us don’t use many dishes in a day anyway. I even bought a dish drying rack and tray from the dollars store. We let the dishes air-dry overnight and I put them away in the morning while waiting for the kettle to boil. Amazing! I even feel like my kitchen is cleaner too!

SudsWM

 
I’m sure my dishwasher will get plenty of use when the family comes for dinner and I don’t mind using it then. I have to admit though, I love washing dishes the old fashioned way again!

 

 

 

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