"Our life is frittered away by detail...simplify, simplify." - Henry David Thoreau

I know I said "blog like no one is reading" but it's nice to know these people are

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Reading Wish List

I have been making a list and checking it twice and I'm going find out what's naughty or nice. Here's my Christmas Reading Wish List thanks to CBC's Canada ReadsBook Riot and a few friends recommendations on Goodreads.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Away by Jane Urquhart

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

February by Lisa Moore

Two Solitudes by Hugh McClennan

The Age of Hope by David Bergen

If you have any other suggestions please let me know.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Not Quite Wordless Wednesday

Anne at The Red Chronicles posted about a new production which brings together one of my favourite children's authors and theatre groups in Toronto. I don't think I'll get to see this but I love knowing that Dennis Lee's poetry is alive and well and making yet another generation laugh.

And from my brother who likes to poke fun at me and my all-consuming on-linedness.

And, of course, a few Instagram shots from the weekend

Clinging to Fall

Slowly sinking 


Bubble Brothers

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Fragments

  • My lovely friend Alexa Reigh of the fantastic blog Your Inner Gosling  introduced me to the Vancouver indie band Said the Whale and their video which is so cute although a wee bit creepy at times. But creepy in a good way. 

  • My eldest son left for Colorado this morning, lucky guy and made his first solo flight due to my OH screwing up the dates he was flying. Luckily I was printing out all his paperwork on Monday and noticed that the flight down was booked for Thursday not Friday with the rest of his ski team. I panicked, called my OH who said that someone else messed up. To which I replied, "Doesn't matter whose fault it is, he's going to get to Denver 24 hours before everyone else." I emailed an old friend to have her on standby to pick Ben up at the airport on Thursday and bring him back on Friday to meet the rest of the group but was actually able to switch his flight and unbelievably, it didn't cost me anything, they even owe me $30! The only down side was that he was on his own but would meet the rest at the other end. And he wasn't alone going through security and customs in Toronto as my OH had to head back down to Florida for another boat show and he timed his flight to leave just after Ben's so they could go through together.
  • I went to my younger sons' school Remembrance Day assembly which brings me to tears every year. We have a military base nearby and there is always an active soldier who speaks to the kids. This year there were only three WWII veterans attending this year and I guess soon enough there will be none. Unfortunately there are still far too many younger veterans who can represent our country's military.
  • I love the Lest We Forget movement which asks people not to put up their Christmas decorations until after the 11th. I've never been much of a early glitter and tinsel girl so our decorations don't go up until the first week of December and I was thrilled when I heard that customer complaints forced Shoppers Drug Mart to turn off the Christmas music they began playing as soon as the Halloween candy was off the shelves. They are waiting until Monday to start Jingle Bell Rocking although they have already Decked the Halls, of course.
  • Better get my act together to face the weekend on my own with Sons Number Two & Three. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Operating System is Out of Date

Barbara Kingsolver has always been one of my favourite authors from her early novels like The Bean Trees to a collection of essays on motherhood in High Tide in Tuscon and her foray into non-fiction in Animal Vegetable Miracle but I stumbled across the website The Daily Good and a Convocation address she gave in 2008 and it really resonated with middle-aged me.

"Because of your age." It's okay now to deck out and turn up as the village idiot. Hooray! I am old enough. How does this happen? Over a certain age, do you become invisible? There is considerable evidence for this in movies and television. But mainly, I think, you're not expected to know the rules. Everyone knows you're operating on software that hasn't been updated for a good while."

That just about sums up how I am feeling these days, like my software needs an upgrade. Of course the rest of the address goes much deeper into where our world is headed and she is rather prophetic seeing what has been happening in the last few months.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Read, Purge, Post, Repeat

This weekend I attacked the kitchen after being inspired by The Nester and Pancakes & French Fries. The former posted about not waiting for "the next house" to do things and she is so right. I am guilty of this big time. When we moved out of the city we doubled the size of our house and have the most gorgeous piece of property. Of course, I hate the pool, but we have a pool! And I hate our eighties grotty bathrooms with the fibreglass built-ins but we have four and I don't have to share mine with the boys so at least there is one seat that I never have to check before I sit down. I hate the fact that when we have a party our kitchen really isn't big enough to hold everyone and they'll never move into the rest of the house but it's bigger than the last one. I joke that all I need is 4 more feet off the back of the house but really, why?

Jules at Pancakes & French Fries has been doing The 31 Days of William Morris Project, you know the one inspired from the quotation, "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." I find that living up to that may be a little difficult living in a house of boys (although I think she has two boys herself) and I am definitely not up to 31 days of it but I did do some rearranging in the kitchen which will drive my OH nuts when he gets home next week, but it now makes so much more sense, to me. And then I tackled the pantry closet and purged a few things so that I can see what all is in there and I don't buy any more chicken broth. It was very satisfying and this morning when I made my toast and there was the bread, right next to the toaster. Wow, what a concept. Next up, I will bake something and not spill all the dry ingredients across the flour as I move from the flour container on one side of the room to the mixer on the other side. Only took me five and a half years to figure that one out. I know for those purists out there, my best friend included, I have way too much stuff on my counters but I do use it all, all the time and if we are having people over I just put it in grocery bins and stick it out in the garage. Et voilà, clean countertops. Of course, this is key as everyone is crammed in the kitchen and need places to put their drinks. 

Of course the purging had me scattering things all over the house in my typical method of operation. Rearranging the kitchen counters lead me to the pantry to move the most opened tins closer to the can opener (hello tuna and tomatoes), then to the laundry room where my cookbooks are and debating the merits of print in the age of iPads and Epicurious (sorry eighties Entertaining Martha) and then to the  dining room sideboard where I took out some serving pieces to put on the now-freed-up shelf space. I even went down to the basement to retrieve the crock pot (where I did avert my eyes in the Boy Cave as that is an area that requires my undivided attention some day in the future) so I now have no less of an excuse to not meal-plan.

As for the rest of the house, I also read Fieldstone Hill Design's post on Words of Reason where she talked about finding words to describe your home. Here's what I came up with:


Then I asked myself these questions:
  1. How do I want my home to feel? Calm and natural. 
  2. How do I want my home to look? Interesting, cozy but uncluttered. I don't want it to look overdone.
  3. What purpose do I want my home to serve? To welcome everyone from my boys hanging out with their buddies to grown up dinner party guests or a big group of kids and adults together.

I'm drawn to texture like cable knit woolen throws, linen slipcovers and rough wooden surfaces. I love patina whether on wood or metal. I like clean lines, white kitchens but with the warmth of wood accents. I want things to be classic and timeless not trendy. I hate matchy-matchy (although my teenage-self dreamed of coordinated bedroom suits). You can see my Pinterest choices which are surprisingly consistent even though I keep thinking that I need some funky and eclectic Anthropologie-like pieces with lots of crazy colours, although I did let two of my sons choose the colours to paint their rooms. So finally, after five years of the boring beige I chose when we moved in, they now have wild and crazy colours on their walls.

Number Three chose bright yellow and flame, the colours of the Canadian Ski Team Downhill suits, of course and as horrified as I was initially I love how it looks. He has covered the walls in posters of his ski racing heroes (and a few of himself), an old Swiss flag that belonged to his Dad hangs over his bed. The whole thing works, it's happy and energetic, the things I hope my youngest son will always be.

Number Two chose lime green and bright blue, not for any particular reason and he says only after did he realize that the colours match the ancient IKEA duvet cover that is on his bed (duh?) But again, I have to admit, it looks great. He isn't as into decorating so he still has a few posters and frames waiting to be hung. But it is also energetic and vibrant like him.

I like things in my home to have a story, not one told by a decorator but a story that's our own like that both our pine corner cabinet and sideboard came from my Dad's advertising agency's boardroom, he collected early Canadian pine both at home and for his office and we have arranged each house around where that corner cabinet fits. The paintings on our walls were not chosen to go with a colour scheme but rather my OH and I have chosen each piece to represent a part of our lives from the sublime - a water colour of Maine and the collection of landscapes by his grandmother to the ridiculous - the "Doors of Hayhurst" poster my mother made by taking photos of all the doors our family has walked in and out of over the years (outhouse included). 

Not sure how to really finish up this post, it's one of the longest I've written in a while and I did try to document all my hard work but you wouldn't really see any difference in the Before and After pics, still just a lot of shelves with a lot of stuff placed on them with no rhyme or reason. So I am hoping that that my OH makes it home safely from Florida (he is planning to leave tomorrow afternoon and has to drive straight through all Hurricane Sandy affected in-land areas and they are forecasting two feet of snow in the mountains) and unlike his sons he better will notice, admire and appreciate all my hard work.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Fragments

Since most of my posts seems to either consist of photos (the lazy blogger's way of posting) or random round ups of bits and pieces or flotsam and jetsam, so to speak, I will endeavour to continue in this vein. Mostly the latter with a few of the former thrown in for those who don't like to read with a bit of music and trashy TV to keep everyone entertained.

  • The round up metaphor is apt as I seem to have a real country and western theme happening, or is it called just country now? Which ever, it is a bit of a fetish. Not sure the exact date that it started but it may have coincided with CBC Radio Two playing a lot of Mumford and Sons whom, I know, are English but their banjo-playing music is my fav right now. So if you haven't heard them, here is their latest single.

  • After listening to that song over and over (it replaced Of Monsters & Men's Little Talks in my rotation) my newly-countrified outlook on life seemed to expand like cornbread in a skillet (sorry, I really shouldn't try to talk the talk) Other examples of this rather strange direction for a Northern girl includes receiving regular emails from Country Outfitters after I signed up to win a pair of cowboy boots. Now I already own two pairs but they don't look like these gorgeous ones. Of course I'd want all of them so I could have my own rainbow of boots in the closet.

  • I already mentioned my wee blog crush on Edie at Life in Grace and now I am addicted to watching Nashville which is a wonderfully countrified show about a fading country singer, played by Connie Britton who is trying to keep her home, family and career together against a young, Taylor Swift-like singer played by Hayden Pannetierre. I love how they wear boots with everything and that even when they are saying something nasty, it comes out all sweet in that southern drawl.

  • On a personal level, we've got a lot going on right now, but so what else is new?  Number Three has settled in at school and things seem to be working well with his teacher although he still isn't doing enough reading. Number Two has started working with someone on his anxiety issues and he seems to be calmer at home which makes the whole house happier. Number One isn't happy at his school, he is bored and not having any extra-curriculars due to a Teacher Work-to-Rule isn't helping anyone. But he leaves in two weeks for Colorado to train and they are calling for snow here on Tuesday which will make everyone in our house happy. It will be thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Sandy which is making things difficult for my OH who is in Fort Lauderdale at a boat show. Last night he got back to his hotel only to be turned away as the power was out, he was able to get back in later but the question is whether the hurricane which is forecast to head north up the coast and wallop the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and Maritime provinces will keep people away from the show this weekend. It's a long drive and a lot of money invested for us to have no one come.

Have a happy weekend, y'all!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Healthy Eating & Dining don't have to be Mutually Exculsive

Last Saturday we had some friends over for dinner, I had been hemming and hawing about having a dinner party as I so often seem to but I have been reading Edie's posts about hospitality over at Life in Grace and was moved to do something. I know I can never hope to emulate her preparedness for guests or any other part of her unique approach to hospitality and I'm really not sure why I am so fascinated by her blog other than she is the antithesis of me - a home-schooling-former-doctor-religious Southern Belle. Anyways, I was inspired to invite a few people over for dinner. Originally it was to be a bigger crowd with my BFF, our friends AM (who is doing remarkably well almost six months after her stroke), her four kids & hubby and another family of three but AM had something come up but we were able to have drinks together at her place on Friday night. So we were down to a much more manageable party of nine. The only issue was that one of the invitees was on a serious cleanse - no dairy, wheat or red meat which ruled out most of my dinner repertoire but I did get out my cookbooks (which doesn't happen all that often anymore) and knew one component would have to be Quinoa, after that came roasted veggies, fresh Georgian Bay White Fish and my new go-to recipe, if you can believe it 

It is, hands down, the tastiest mix of not-so tasty vegetables around. The dressing is just basic lemon juice, garlic and oil with a sprinkle of Parmesan and, my alternative to almonds, roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds. We had this at a friend's a few weeks ago and I was amazed that my Other Half loved it, being the Brussels Sprout hater that he is, not to mentions that it is all raw. The secret seems to be to make sure both the kale and BS's are finely chopped. It is full of good stuff and tastes even better the day after. As for the kids, I chopped up more veggies (not the above) and made them fish tacos which are always a hit in our house.

We ended up with two more for dinner as so often happens once I get on an entertaining roll and the evening was lovely with wine for those who weren't cleansing and chocolate cake with "SKI" in sprinkles on top as everyone present is counting the days til the snow flies. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Catch Up

As the days grow shorter and weather cooler it seems we are trying to cram as much in as possible before the snow flies. Yesterday I was invited to go on a trail ride with a group in an area I had never ridden. I was a bit nervous about whether I would be able to keep up and if I'd be able to walk the next day but I am happy to report that I am walking like a cowboy and Jazz & I only got lost once (my fault as I held him back to see if we could have a good gallop) I followed the wrong trail and then had to double back to where luckily the rest of the group had done the same. The weather was picture perfect and the footing amazing. One of the leaders of the ride was a former Canadian national team ski racer and he rides a horse much like he used to ski a downhill course - flat out. The other riders were mostly older and many have ridden all over the world, something to dream about. It was fun and I hope we'll get invited again.

I also learned about the sport of Ride and Tie which is a crazy trail race with the team made up of one horse and two humans. They all start off at the same time and the rider goes as far as they think their partner can run to, they then tie up the horse and take off on foot. The first runner then finds the horse, hops on and takes off, passing the runner and continues on to another point where they tie up the horse again. Apparently there is not just a certain level of fitness required but some strategy so that the team makes it to the end together. A little crazy if you ask me but then I have never run a race in my life, nor have I ever wanted to but it might be fun to go watch one.

A perfect trail through the Dufferin Forest

Getting a drink

Happy trail riders

Yet another reason to love living in a small town - Number Two Son and his best buddy made a few bucks busking one day after school. They only knew one song but must have been quite entertaining. They gave half of the cash to the school music programme for the use of the instruments and tomorrow four of them are heading "downtown" to busk again. Let's hope the weather cooperates and the shop keepers are tolerant.

Ski season is still a couple of months off but the boys couldn't resist riding on the old J Bar when we went for a hike up the hill.

I think I already posted this picture but it is so perfect I couldn't resist.

The gang after we closed the cottage.

I have a hair appointment next week

Thursday, October 11, 2012

So much to be thankful for

Up here in the Great (not quite) White North we celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend and for many people, including my family, it is the time when cottages are closed up for the winter. It is a bittersweet time of year, the days are crystal clear and cold. The fall colours are at their peak and the smell of wood smoke fills the air, along with turkey cooking and pies baking. It is my favourite time of the year, this coming Sunday my Other Half and I will celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary and I will have officially spent half of my life with this man as we were married when I was a mere 23 years of age (not 12, as I like to say). The pool is closed, the sailboat in dry dock, my horse is wearing his winter blanket most days, I have on boots and a cozy sweater and the boys are gearing up for ski season. 

Yes, it is bittersweet to say goodbye to summer but I couldn't imagine living anywhere else. I love the changing seasons, each one bringing something to look forward to. Here are a few photos of fall in our neck of the woods.

One lone red maple leaf on a bed of pine needles floating in the lake

Ready for a canoe trip

The raison d'etre for having a teenage boy
(he doesn't mind swimming in frigid water to take out the raft)

Final early morning row on the lake

Putting the cabin to bed for a long winter's nap
(and hoping it's still standing in the spring)

Leaf jumping for joy

The work crew finally gets to climb up on the roof

Cam on a cold tin roof

The floor show

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I know, I know ... it's been a while

Not just a while but a very long while encompassing a very long summer and an already busy fall. We had home-from-camp early drama (don't know if I'll ever get over having to bring No. 2 Son home on Visitor's Day or the camp's non-existant response to the issues) as well as the all-3-boys-are-home-at-the-same-time drama for the other 7 weeks of the summer. But everyone survived.

My Happy Place

My Other Half and I had exactly 48 hours alone all summer and we packed in as much as possible. I finally got him on a horse and he survived. We went sailing and had dinner out. Too short but we are planning another getaway to celebrate our *gasp* 23rd anniversary next month. The four days we are away next week delivering boats doesn't count.

Two of my favourite males

So now everyone is back at school and relatively happy, Numbers 2 & 3 have the teachers they want. No. 3 went through some educational assessment testing this summer and his teacher is working on an IEP for him which we are greeting with enthusiasm but also with some trepidation as I am wary of too many accommodations being made so that he can get through school. But I have also found a wonderful after school tutor who will be henceforth be known as his "reading coach." Already he is happier at school, doing homework and in general.

Of course now that it is almost officially fall the boys are counting down the days til the *brrr* snow started falling and they can get back on their skis. No. 1 spent 10 days on a glacier at Mount Hood, Oregon and is keener than ever (if that is possible) He will be heading back to Colorado in November and No. 2 to Vermont in December. We are, if nothing else, a ski-crazy family, much like I imagine football or baseball-obessed people are down south.

On the snow in August

No. 1 survived the first week of high school. The bus, the older kids, the maze of hallways and timetable and seems to be settling in. The only problem for all the boys is that there is a work action (or inaction depending on your view point) by our public school teachers which means there are no extra curriculars being offered. No school teams or clubs or extras which is particularly tough on No. 2 Son who has waited for 6 years to be able to try out for a school team in grade 7. I believe that both the government and the teachers are at fault this time but of course it is only the kids who are being affected.

What else? Let's see, I am no longer cheese mongering but rather spending more time on supporting our own business through the website and of course, tagging along on deliveries to places like Maine and Rhode Island where I can visit friends. I have started going to Pilates again and hope to get, if not back into shape, at lease be less creaky and cranky. Unfortunately I seem to be suffering from "Chuck It Elbow" a common affliction amongst owners of ball-obsessed dogs.

We spend hours at the beach throwing things

And, while there are no guaranties that I will be posting with any regularity for those of you who might drop by, I will attempt to put up something new to look at every once in a while, in the meantime I am on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest far too often of you want to find me.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Random Tuesday on Wednesday

  • haven't felt much like writing at all lately but then again I haven't felt much like doing anything
  • finally went to the doctor to see if there was anything serious with all my aches, pains and general crappiness. X-rays and an ultrasound results declared that the general crappiness is completely self-induced and there is not a magic pill to fix it although, on the up side, my doctor did recommend regular massages :-)
  • so I have to do something about it myself which includes moving my body but not houses (see moving post
  • as a direct result of the above I have been getting out of bed when I wake up and going for a half an hour or so walk most mornings which I actually enjoy although the world's laziest dog opted out after the first few days
  • I went riding yesterday for the first time in six weeks and it was glorious so that is back on the schedule
  • I am still in denial about summer activities for the boys. No. One will have a few grass cutting jobs but other than that he's on his own until he goes to Oregon to ski at the end of August. No. Two has one week scheduled in July then he's off to a new camp with his west coast cousin. No. Three Has nothing on and he's the one I'm most worried about. We are in the midst of doing Educational assessments with him and he is having a tough time at school and at home. The level of fighting in our house between 2 & 3 is off the charts and No. Two doesn't leave for camp until the end of July *gulp*
  • My in-laws are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary next weekend with a renewal of their vows and a dinner dance. They are an amazing couple, have overcome so many obstacles and stuck it out whenever the going got rough (which it did on several occasions) I put together a photo album of their life together from about ages 14 to 71. Truly inspiring.
  • No. One is off on his Grade 8 trip to Ottawa this week and then graduation is on the 26th. He is hoping to win the Math and Phys Ed award which was made for him. 
  • I have decided that after the summer my career as a cheesemonger will be over. I need to find something that fulfils my need to be with people (mid-week retail in the off-season is a lonely place), some flexibility as my kids apparently still need me to boss around and an ability to help keep the boys in new skis (or at least poles)
Wish me luck as I attempt to keep my sanity with three boys at at home in July for the first time in about five years. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Change for the Better

It seems like everyone I know, including my friend AM who is lying in the hospital recovering from a broken leg and stroke, wants to do a triathlon. Me? Not so much. I'm just happy that I've gotten out of bed two mornings in a row and walked the dog before 8am. I feel like I am missing an essential part of being a  2000 and teens middle-aged woman. Everyone is either running a marathon, cycling the Centurion or planning a trip to climb K2. Me? I just want to stop feeling crappy all the time which makes me very grumpy. I finally went to the doctor this week and told him about all the strange pains I have been having all over my body. He didn't laugh or look at me with pity (he's a cyclist who broke his neck riding his bike a few years ago and is right back in the saddle) He did sign me up for a bunch of blood work as well as x-rays and an ultrasound so I guess he's taking this seriously and I did actually go and get the blood and x-rays done so that's a start. I don't want to find out that there is something wrong with me I just want to know that the aches and pains are normal or can be fixed by losing weight or getting more reasonable amounts of exercise.

It's hard to feel sorry for yourself when a friend is looking at months and months of recovery but who is still insisting her husband sign her up for hockey next winter. I spoke to AM's sister, M yesterday and she feels the biggest roadblock to AM's recovery is that she won't let go of all her motherly duties and focus on herself. She sends texts and emails in the middle of the night reminding her sister about the kids' schedules, she is worrying about what they are eating, wearing and doing every minute of the day which, of course is what all we mothers do but she has to try and relinquish these things to her sister and husband. The kids are being well cared for although it may not be exactly the way she would be doing it. But, as M said, "Their lives are not going to be the same, their mother is in the hospital and things have changed." The question down the road will be whether it may even be a change for the better. Like most families we know, AM's was as active as active can be. Four kids, all in sports, music lessons, extra tutoring and I mentioned they had just gotten a new puppy, right? Dad commutes by train downtown every day, they have a country place they use year round. They are, in short, healthy, athletic and everything you are supposed to strive for except that it might have all been too much. The doctors don't know what caused AM's stroke, they haven't found a connection to the surgery on her leg but her sister's theory is that it was a sign that AM needed to slow down for her own and the whole family's sake.

My Other Half's reaction to all this has been a little surprising. He, of course, is up to his eyeballs in boat orders and deliveries, he just did a 24 hour turn around, driving from here to New Hampshire and back. But he has hardly asked about AM and I wonder if it's because he doesn't want to think about the what if's. What if it was me in the hospital or even, what if it was him? His life is as stressful as they come, running his own business, responsible for four dependents as well as eight employees. He has never handled this time of year very well. He just hunkers down and plows through it with little time to rest, relax or even smile some days. AM certainly wasn't as extreme as my OH, she allowed herself to have fun, unfortunately one of the things she loved to do for herself was the thing that landed her in the hospital. Of course we don't know whether she would have had the stroke whether she had broken her leg or not but for me I worry that my OH is heading for a breakdown every year about this time.

So, as well as looking after myself, I have to make sure I keep an eye on S. Our sailboat was launched on Sunday, rechristened with a more appropriate name (although according to marine protocol we have invited back luck by not getting a virgin to pee on the deck before she went back in the water) and I have made it my mission to get S. out in it twice as many times as last year. Meaning eight times which is completely doable from now until October haul out. Just because we are in the boat business doesn't mean we get to spend all our time on the water and it is out there that S is really able to relax and do nothing. So in the interest of our  health and well-being I vow to keep walking in the mornings and get S to join me when he is home. We will have fun with the boys and not spend all our time running them around from activity to activity.

Tomorrow I am going to see AM for the first time and I am taking some lilacs and lily of the valley from the garden for her room, cheese (of course) and lots of fresh fruit. Hopefully I will be able to wheel her outside for a little picnic and fresh air. And when I get home I want to tell S all about my visit so that he can understand how important it is for both of us to take care of ourselves and each other.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Random Tuesday

  • We're all still recovering from my Mum's Birthday Weekend. I call it PTCT - Post Traumatic Cousin Letdown.  No. 2 Son had the staples taken out of his head by a friend of ours on Sunday but I still haven't gotten around to posting any photos of all the fun.

  • Soccer starts up again this week but luckily for us No. 3 has been moved up to play U12 and will be on the same team as his middle brother. On the pitch is about the only place where they get along so it's a win-win situation as we will only have soccer three nights a week instead of four and there's less driving to away games.

  • Golf season is in full swing and the boys are taking full advantage of their junior memberships at my Dad's club. I love golf. It requires the boys to dress nicely, behave apprpriately and be out of the house for three or four hours.
  • Haven't been riding in weeks but heard from my Dad that there is a woman organizing a riding programme for disabled children who is looking for help which could solve a couple of my problems. Working in the cheese shop isn't what it was, I am by myself on the two quietest days of the week and that's no fun and I really feel like I should be doing something more. Another problem is that when it's quiet in the shop I am bored and when I am bored I eat and did I mention I work in a gourmet cheese shop. Nibble, nibble ...

  • No. 3 Son has been having problems at school again and I am getting a little tired of the way things are being handled. It seems that yesterday they had a class meeting to talk about any problems. It was to be a time to air any and all grievances and as No. 3 said, "Mum, they're all hypocrites." I was shocked, first because he used such a big word and second because he used it correctly. It seems the kids love to complain about any perceived slights and are all quick to tattle tale on others. The culture of Standing Up to Bullying appears to have reached the tipping point, at least in this Grade Four class where, if you have the slightest problem with a classmate, you accuse them of bullying. I know bullying is a real problem for many kids but much of what they are talking about in my son's class is regular day-to-day bickering amongst 9 and 10 year olds.

  • I spent yesterday afternoon going through my closet putting together outfits that I could wear out for lunch or dinner or shopping. In other words, if I had anywhere to go that didn't involve kids, a not-very-well trained dog and mud. It was fun but a little pointless and I couldn't seem to take any decent photos of the outfits like all those "What I Wore" bloggers.

  • I had the chance to buy a week in an Irish cottage for $800 plus airfare this September but of course the week is one when my OH is at a boat show (surprise, surprise). It's just not fair (to quote any one of my children) that these damn shows not only occur during the winter, spring, summer and now, apparently not wanting to be left out - fall.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Wake Up Call

Monday morning after the kids had finally left for school I sat down to read my emails and recover from the weekend of all things family (photos to come). I opened one from C which began, "Some bad news. AM broke her leg playing hockey on Sunday. Both tibia and fibula. She underwent surgery and had a plate and pins put in." That was bad enough, thank you very much. A mother of four children ages 3, 9, 11 and 13 who works part time managing several apartment buildings which her family owns, AM has a a lot on her plate and being laid up with a full cast on her leg and months of recovery ahead of her was bad enough but then I went on to read the second paragraph.

"Sometime during the night, after the surgery she had a stroke. It affected her right side and she cannot move her leg, arm and is having trouble speaking."

I didn't process this right away. The phone rang and D was on the line and said, "How can this have happened?" We must have opened up the email at exactly the same time. AM is my age. She is an athlete, she doesn't smoke and she is, as I always describe her, the goodest person I know. How can she have had a stroke? Immediately emails started flying around and over the past four days more information has been passed along and this morning I called the hospital and was able to talk to her for a few minutes. She is improving, can speak and is able to move her right leg. Her husband is commuting the 45 minutes from home to the hospital daily and they hope to move her closer to home next week. Her youngest and the two month old puppy they just got are staying with friends for the short term and her sister has flown home from Greece to take care of the kids. In the words of one friend, "the hockey, soccer and school Moms have moved in and have the older kids continuing with their regular routines." Of course meals are being taken care of and they are doing as well as can be expected.

I think what really hit me was the thought - it's not what people will say about you when you're gone but they'll do for you when you're still here and need them. AM has a close knit family and an incredibly diverse group of friends, many of whom have know her since birth. I met her when I was 13 but my Other Half has known her his whole life. She is the sort of person who comes into any situation and makes everyone feel at ease. She is a connector, bringing people together from all walks of life. She is one of the few religious people I know but never makes you feel uncomfortable about it. I have often envied her her faith.

I know she is going to recover but it is going to be a very long road. All the things she and her family have taken for granted will have to be rethought and reprioritized but if anyone can make it through what is to come it will be AM and the multitude of people who will be there to help.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Random Tuesday Ramblings

  • Definitely don't like the new blogger format but then we all know I hate change
  • April 24th and it's a Snow Day. WTF?! And yesterday I laughingly said, "yes" when the boys asked me if could they stay home if it was one ... sigh
  • Still not sure if I will wear the silver snakeskin pumps on Friday night. 
  • Oh, get over yourself and wear them!
  • Should spend some time practicing all the cool stuff I learned in my Intro to Photoshop course although I think that it's very sad that the Number One use for Cloning in Photoshop is to take people's ex's out of old pictures. I'm going to practice putting people randomly in places they never were, kind of like Forest Gump
  • Love the fact that No. 2 Son always speaks in some kind of accent with his best buddy
  • Only two more sleeps until my brother and his family arrive for our mother's 70th birthday weekend. Don't know who is more excited? The kids to see their cousins or me to hang out with my sibs
  • Found this fabulous retreat via Kyran's Planting Dandelions and I really want to go. It's a Yoga/Writing/Photography retreat and since I had to cancel going to the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop I wonder if I wasn't meant to go to this one? It's perfect for me except for the fact that it is June 28th to July 2nd which is over our Canada Day Long Weekend and usually when everyone who has ordered a boat wants it delivered so my Other Half is always MIA. But it's a Yoga/Writing/Photography retreat and I really want to go
  • Big changes may be coming where I work part time. Not sure if maybe it's a sign that I need to find something else to do or if I should throw myself into it and take on more responsibility and hours. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

This just about sums up my weekend

Two nights out in a row, at my advanced age is definitely something to celebrate. And we did. (Un)fortunately there is no photographic evidence (that I know of) from either Friday or Saturday night or either of the mornings after. All I know is that I must be maturing (finally) because I did not drink tequila and wisely stuck to champagne. My Other Half always seems to know what I need for my birthday and this year was no exception, dinner with seven of our oldest (and bestest) friends. I am very lucky to have them all in my life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sure Signs of a Mid Life Crisis

Here's the post that was supposed to go with the silver snakeskin shoes.

It seems I can blame the mid-life malaise I have been experiencing over the last few weeks and months on the stars. And as if this wasn't enough of a wake up call for me as I jumped up and over the mid-life hump yesterday and landed on the downward slide to *gasp* fifty (doesn't look as shocking when written rather than the actual number) but even the venerable Globe & Mail horoscope knows I have to get my act together and figure out what the hell I am going to do in the second act of my life.

The crisis began a while ago but escalated while I was preparing for my mother's 70th birthday. As I scanned old photos of her and we asked old friends and family to write something in her honour the emails began to pour in from her childhood, school, camp and life-long friends. Although she now has very little contact with most of these people they all contributed the most wonderful words. She was a role model for so many as a camp director. She did so much as a young mother at home and in our community - renovating a falling-down farmhouse, writing a newspaper column, organizing an after-school programme, bringing performing arts groups to our small, rural community. She tapped, trees, boiled sap and bottled homemade maple syrup and started vegetables from seed. Does anyone does that anymore? As I wrote in a previous post she created a home which everyone loved. My greatest fear is that I can't and won't ever measure up to either of my parents. I guess it's time to wake up and figure out what to do now.

But of course the real sign that I am officially in a mid-life crisis is that I spent over an hour in Winners yesterday trying on shoes and was completely incapable of making a decision. I need something to wear on a daily basis other than my Blundstone boots and running shoes. Something cute but grown up and I also needed a pair to wear with a black dress to a gala honouring my Dad (don't even get me started on his accomplishments, he retired at 44, for god's sake) I wanted something fun but classic and I was completely stumped looking at all the shoes. Most were way too high for me to even attempt to wear and the rest were just ugly. I finally found these and had to take picture and send it to my best friend who lives and works in the real world to see if I was way off base.

So, the verdict was that the silver snakeskin makes them fun while the classic style means they aren't tacky. Right?

I think I obsessed over them to take my mind off the horoscope.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What Makes a House a Home

I've finally changed the banner photo on this page since the snow is long gone and when we rode yesterday I noticed that the apple trees that were in the old picture are about to bloom. Time marches on whether we are ready or not. The photo I chose for the banner is one I scanned on the weekend when I spent the day at my Mum's house looking through old albums. We are putting together a Memory Book for her 70th birthday later this month and I was in charge of discreetly making copies of her pictures. I gave up on the discreet and finally told her I needed to dig out all the albums. We sat together as I scanned and laughed and talked about the pictures. She and her parents were avid photographers although, truth be told, they took fantastic nature shots but crappy shapshots. Many of them were original 3x3 prints and not great quality but my brother who is putting together the book assures me he can "antique" them or something so they look cool, not out of focus.

It was a bittersweet day, my parents divorced 15 years ago after 32 years of marriage and no one ever really understood why. It was hard going through all the old family photos especially the ones of them together. They were so young, my Mum was only 24 when I was born and I realized as I looked through the years that she only a year older than I am now when I got married.

The photo is of the farmhouse where I grew up in one of its earliest incarnations. It was added on to many times, the front porch was redone in a style more befitting its Georgian roots and the gardens became more and more elaborate. I love the photo because it shows how simple things were when my parents first moved us out of the city to what most people then considered the sticks (it's now hemmed in by subdivisions). Mum stayed there after my Dad moved out for a few more years before she sold it and built a new house. The farm was the most incredible place, the centre of our world no matter how far we travelled (see previous post). My Other Half and I moved back in several times in between houses and my Mum made sure we always had a room. She actually left our childhood rooms much as they were when we were growing up. My had the same striped wallpaper and floral trim along the ceiling, the only change was she put in a queen sized bed for us.

Last night I asked my kids for their memories of the farm where they spent weekends and holidays with their grandmother. It's strange to think that they don't associate it with my Dad even though he was one the one who physically created it while Mum gave it soul. He was the engine and she was the heart. He built the riding ring, taught me to drive standard in the back field while she threw wonderful parties and welcomed all our friends. We used to joke about the "broken wings" Dad would find and bring home for Mum to look after. People having a tough time in life who would come to the farm and stay for as long as they needed to. Dad would travel, climb mountains, write books about it then return home to sit by the fire and talk with us or be at the head of the table expounding on his views while she was close by in the kitchen with friends putting together wonderful meals or making sure there were fresh flowers in the bedrooms.

Now that I am a wife, mother and have my own house I appreciate all the more what my Mum created at the farm. As a high school friend of mine said when I asked a few of them for their memories of Mum,

"We always knew that everyone was welcome at the farm, you never knew who would be there as it was a place people passed through, stayed to heal or came to feel the energy of the fun nights. That spirit of acceptance that Swebbs embodied permeated the farm and meant that, by extension, we all somehow felt that you could be yourself."

I worry that our house and, by extension, me are not that welcoming and accepting place for my kids and their friends which I know is so important as we go into the turbulent teenage years. My OH and I say that we want the boys to always be able to call home for a ride or help and we wouldn't question them. My parents created a safe haven for so many people but most importantly for my brother, sister and I and it's so important that we do the same for our children. And I know it's not the physical place that is important, it wasn't the farm because it had lots of bedrooms for people to crash or an indoor swimming pool or a barn full of toys. It was the feeling that my parents created whicheveryone experienced when they visited whether for an afternoon, overnight or a month. I've used the phrase "A Sense of Place" as a label for some posts but it was more than just the place, a farm is just a farm, a cottage just a cottage and an house isn't a home unless someone makes it one.

Monday, March 26, 2012

I can't believe I'm saying this but ...

I'm kind of jealous of Amy over at Bitchin' Wives Club because even though she is living in a sea of boxes that won't unpack themselves at least she gets a fresh start. We have been living in our current house for almost six years and that is the maximum we have ever stayed in one place.

Here's our timeline as a couple :

  • 1987 - lived together for first time in a lovely garden flat in London, England.
  • 1988 - first apartment together in Toronto, again a ground floor with patio but moved up to the second floor when someone tried to break in while we were sleeping.
  • 1989 - bought our first house in Toronto with original dark, gumwood trim, stained glass windows, ancient kitchen but huge backyard, painted the living room hunter green.
  • 1990 - sold first house, considered moving to Vancouver then bought second, considerably smaller house one block away (this was during mini recession). Again, original trim, tiny kitchen, smaller garden, two bedrooms. Painted living room blue.
  • 1993 - sold and moved to Kennebunkport, Maine while OH studied boat building. No rentals to be had before school started so bought lobster fisherman's shed behind big house with only second floor habitable. Ground floor was already inhabited by squirrels. Renovated with help of boat builders and painted living room cream.
  • 1995 - packed up truck and drove across the continent to White Rock, B.C. on the Washington state border. Rented fifties bungalow and sponge-painted living room. Faux finish era.
  • 1996 - lasted five months on Wet Coast and packed up truck to drive across continent back to Ontario (truth be told, OH did the driving while I flew with the dog)
  • 1997 - built timber frame dream home on property next to the farm where I grew up. Painted living room hunter green again because, as painter said, everyone with a house like this does.
  • 2001 - sold dream house because country living wasn't the life for me and moved back to old neighbourhood in Toronto. Painted over original dark trim with Benjamin Moore Cloud White and living room Ralph Lauren Golden Retriever or Yellow Lab
  • 2007 - sold house in the city and moved to small town. Painted every strip of knotty f**king pine panelling Benjamin Moore Cloud White much to painter's distress and living room Berh's Clotted Cream.
  • 2012 - bored of house, walls and trim trashed from three boys and friends. Eighties almond fibreglass bathrooms unbearable. Exterior nineties sage green paint peeling and blond floors scuffed. All easily fixable (with money) but much easier to just leave it behind and start fresh, right?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Is it just me or does something smell a little off?

Much as I predicted the record-breaking summer-like weather we had while the boys were on Spring Break has come and gone just as I feel my energy level returning. After over a week of feeling like complete and utter crap I can finally get out of bed and attempt to look after my children (sort of). My Other Half seems to have beaten this flu back or is just a whole lot tougher than me (unlikely, but he has soldiered on). But the fallout seems to be that I have no sense of taste or smell. Nothing. Upside is I couldn't smell anything as I pooper-scooped the backyard yesterday. Downside? I couldn't smell or taste the brownies I made last night for the boys. Upside? I couldn't care less about eating anything and might lose some weight. Downside? I keep trying things to see if I can taste them so I might not lose any weight.

It is the strangest sensation (or lack thereof) brushing your teeth and not tasting the minty toothpaste. I can't tell if I have horrible morning breath or if my teenager has left his stinky socks and shoes in the hall. I went on-line to see if this was an unusual after effect of the flu and it isn't unheard of but I have never had it happen before but then again I don't think I have every had the real full-blown flu. The one they warn you about and tell you to get vaccinated against. I am sorely missing my morning cup of coffee. I bought Eggo waffles ostensibly for the boys but really for me to eat to see if I could detect their chemically-induced tastiness. Last night I barbecued steak and veggies for a steak and feta salad and I couldn't even smell the barbecue burning off the fish from the last time we used it wafting in the open window. It sucks, there's no other way to describe it. I love to cook and I love to eat. I can't imagine not tasting wine again or smelling the lilacs blooming which, at the rate this year is going, may happen sooner rather than later. And if I can't go up to the barn and breath in the smell of leather and hay and horses, my life will be poorer, indeed.

Has anyone else had this happen to them? I have a couple of friends who lost their sense of smell and with it goes taste because of medical treatments and I am hoping this isn't permanent although a month or so would get my weight down to a more manageable level for the summer. In the meantime, I will keep trying things - salty, sweet, bitter, anything and hope for the best.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sometimes Nice Guys Do Finish First

Sunday was that most dreaded day of the year - Club Championships for the three ski racers in our family. Luckily for me my Other Half gave up racing when he became the sole proprietor of our business. There isn't enough disability insurance in the world to cover us if he was hurt and couldn't work. As for me? I am waiting until I am in the over 80 category when I hope I will be the only one left standing or at least with all body parts intact. My competitors will either have to enter in the Bionic category or else won't be walking after all the injuries and joint replacements they are already enduring in middle age. As for the boys, it was a learning year. All three were in the lower half age-wise of their categories so even Number Three wasn't expecting to be on the podium as he has done in years past. But he and his middle brother acquitted themselves well, coming in fourth and fifth respectably. Number One who works the hardest still has yet to break into the top ten of his group and it has been a frustrating year. He started out with high hopes after he got back from training in Colorado in November when his coaches told him he was one of the top skiers but as the season progressed he fell back into his old ways. No anxiety attacks this year but over-thinking every race. He is conservative and cautious by nature just like his father and that coupled with the fact that many of his peers have bulked up considerably and he is still skinny as a rail he just isn't quite there yet.

Saturday night he wasn't feeling great but was still game to go in the morning. He had an okay first run but fell in the second and when everyone gathered for the prize-giving he really wasn't feeling well but I told him we had to stay and cheer on his buddies. He lasted about halfway through the awards and then finally said he had to go home. My Other Half and I both went with him and left the other two with my sister. When we were almost home my sister called, screaming, "He won! He won! You missed it. He won!" Every year they award a trophy to the athlete who best exemplifies good sportsmanship and dedication. Earlier that afternoon, as we were walking the dog, I had remarked to my Other Half that I hoped this award would go to a kid who really deserved it, not just to another top racer who won all the time anyways as it seems to have over the past few years. Those kids get lots of recognition but the ones like my eldest who love the sport and try their best every time but just don't have that extra something to get on the podium, they rarely get recognized. Until now. As my sister relayed what the head coach had said about it being a unanimous decision voted on by all the coaches and the club cheered as my son's name was called, I couldn't believe we had missed it. I know that for my very shy son it would have been agony to go up on stage but for me, as a parent, a field that hands out very few awards for raising a great kid, I would have loved it. We did receive lots of congratulatory emails from our friends and the two little brothers were, of course more than happy to accept on his behalf. And, I know, it's not about me but I am going to make damn sure when he graduates from Grade 8 this June that I am in the front row to take all the credit for my wonderful first born.

Numbers Two and Three proudly accepting on behalf of their big brother

Saturday, March 3, 2012

More Dispatches from a Parallel Universe

As most of you know, from December to March my family and I inhabit this alternate reality called Alpine Ski Racing World. Now in Austria or Switzerland this wouldn't be so strange but we live smack dab on a big rock called the Canadian Shield. Nowhere near any real mountains but our life revolves around our ski club where all three boys spend a ridiculous amount of time going up and down a 700 foot vertical. But with them out of the house three or four day a week, getting exercise and competing with their friends it's not all a bad thing. A very expensive thing but not all bad, especially when they win.

Number Three Son practicing holding his skis up with his best bud, O-Dog for when they are sponsored by Atomic

Number Two Son with his gold medal winning team
(I try not to think where those medals have been)

Number Two with his buddies and a big honking trophy

The littlest cousin making his way up the Magic Carpet

Hot on the heels of his cousins on the race course

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why we loved the Queen Mum

"Wouldn't it be terrible if you'd spent all your life doing everything you were supposed to do, didn't drink, didn't smoke, didn't eat things, took lots of exercise, and suddenly, one day, you were run over by a big red bus and, as the wheels were crunching into you, you'd say, "Oh my God, I could have got so drunk last night." That's the way you should live your life, as if tomorrow you'll be run over by a big red bus."

- Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, quoted by Michael Parker in
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother: The Official Biography

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