After a very cold wet introduction, spring has bowed out to summer almost overnight. The tulips I planted last fall bloomed and faded quickly, and almost everything else cooked in the heat. The apple tree bloomed profusely and then it seemed the petals fell off in the span of a day. It’s a wonder there are any lilacs left, but they have managed to survive. Everywhere I walk I can smell their fragrance. Something I’m not used to seeing is white lilacs–there are as many as the purple variety.
To try to preserve a bit of lilac springtime, I decided to make lilac syrup and jelly. The lilac bush outside my kitchen windows needed a good haircut anyway, so I had my husband clip down some branches, especially the ones that rasp on the eaves when it’s windy.
The syrup was very easy, and will make a nice addition to summer drinks. It’s basically a simple syrup made with lilac floret tea. I’ve tried freezing some in ice cube trays–we’ll see if the subtle fragrance survives.
The jelly was less satisfying. I used this recipe. I only had liquid pectin and used 2 pouches. It was a long weekend and there was no way I was going near a store. It took quite some time to carefully strip the florets from the stems, leaving no greenery attached. After soaking the florets in water overnight, I strained out the ‘tea’ and added in the other ingredients.
The result was a very mild flavoured jelly–not distinctly lilac. Other recipes call for more lilac florets, and I think if I were to make this jelly again, I would use double the florets. I would also use real lemon juice rather than bottled.
The canned jars look very pretty. Even if the results were unexciting, it was a fun experiment and perhaps I will feel differently in cold December if I can catch a whiff of spring fragrance.
Almost exactly a year ago, I was sewing joey bags for animals injured in the Australian fires. Oddly, that seems a very long time ago. The first lockdown of the pandemic began in March of 2020. Looking back on it, those seemed like dark days as we tried to understand what all the information being thrown at us meant. That lockdown started March 17, and it was taken very seriously. Driving into town to pick up my grocery order at the end of March was like driving through a ghost town. And that too, was something quite foreign–not going into a store to get my groceries. We didn’t go anywhere. Doctor’s appointments were arranged online and we quickly learned to navigate meetings, exercise classes and choir practices online. I sewed masks, scraped wallpaper, painted–I don’t find it hard to stay busy.
Things eased up during the summer months. We spent most of it beside the pool. We only attempted to camp once. With only outhouses available at the campsite, it was a gritty affair. But it did give us a chance to see family we’d been missing since winter. We gardened, I sprained my ankle, we swam, kayaked, had a wonderful cottage weekend with friends and family and I sewed more masks.
We got in another visit to family in the fall. We canned peaches and pears, filled the freezer with garden vegetables and crossed our fingers that we would need another lockdown. In late fall, our forever foster Toto came to live with us. He’s with us as long as his heart holds out.
We spent Christmas quietly, and cancelled plans to visit family before Christmas as we watched the COVID cases climb alarmingly. Christmas activities were limited to going to a tree farm to cut a tree with my daugher and son-in-law and touring local light displays. It was a small party over the Christmas turkey as we anticipated hunkering down a full lockdown was again put in place on December 26. It was then extended mid-January.
So here we are at the end of the second lockdown. We did a lot of work on the house; work that would probably have been spread over many months if not for the lockdown. We’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned to be very grateful to be in the situation we are in–not stressed about our income, food supply or the roof over our heads. We’re looking forward to a bit of freedom, but I’m still hesitant to go anywhere busy with people. I’m happy to continue carrying out food, ordering online and doing curbside pickup until we get what, at this point, feels like those coveted vaccines. I’m not sewing any more masks. And our fingers are crossed that we don’t need to go through another lockdown.
It just occurred to me that at 101 years old, Herbert Henry has survived a few crisis, including the pandemic of 1918. Ja Da would have been a popular song at the time. Does the piano already know the song? I hope whoever played, played better than I.
“To bear in mind constantly that all of this has happened before. And will happen again—the same plot from beginning to end, the identical staging.” Marcus Aurelius – Meditations.
We have a visitor right now. She weighs about 10lbs, isn’t very steady on her feet and spends a lot of time shaking. She’s from the same puppy mill Winnie was taken out of and clearly they are related. So here I go again, trying to help a mill dog become a good pet for someone.
As we get to know her I’ll be making a list of things she will need to know before going to a permanent home. I want her more steady on her feet. She lacks muscle and coordination. She needs to learn how to get up and down stairs. She needs to be able to go off leash in an fenced yard. She needs to be able to get herself out a door to go potty.
These things a pretty normal for our normal pets, but they are hard work for a mill dog. You’d think going through a door would be no big deal. But, this can be a major phobia for these dogs. It took Winnie months to learn to step over a threshold and go through a doorway.
We are starting out a little further into the journey than with Winnie. She’s already been fostered for just over a year, and then was adopted. So she’s basically potty trained and doesn’t try to hide in her crate. She doesn’t run if she hears loud noises although she certainly does react.
The adoption did not work out, the owner describing her as a ‘shell’. But, we’ve already seen some sparks of a personality, most of this thanks to Sammy Sam, who is exactly the type of well adjusted pet dogs like this need to learn from. In some many things I’ve read about mill dogs, a well adjusted dog to be a role model is described as the number one thing that can bring them around. Sammy Sam will soon have an honourary degree in doggy therapy. For mill dogs, who basically have a canine form of PTSD love isn’t really enough.
I admit the title “Birder” sounds a little strange to me, as it suggests something more participatory than watching birds. And although I may be a birder, I’m certainly not a twitcher (someone who travels long distances to see birds). I prefer to let them come to me. I am a list maker however, and keeping a list of birds in my special list book is something I enjoy. My bird list contains few rarities–these are just the birds that inhabit the same environs I do. I’ve been keeping a life list for several years now, but throughout 2019 I kept a list of all the birds I saw. Today I sat down and took a final count–there were 75. A few birds that I didn’t quite identify didn’t make it on my list–like the black duck I thought I saw just before Christmas. I figure confirming it over the next few days will give me a jump on the 2020 list.
Merry Christmas! Yes, it’s been a long time since I posted. In April we sold our home far faster than anticipated and had to be out in six weeks. We stayed with my daughter for six weeks while we bought a new home. The summer went far too quickly as we tried to unwind and squeeze every moment out of every hot day–camping and floating around in the pool were our main activities. My father passed away at the end of August, bringing our summer to a sad end.
As soon as the weather began to turn cool, we turned to fixing up our fixer upper. The house we moved into had not been redecorated since the mid-1980s. Every room had either wallpaper or border in loud florals, kitschy 80s goose motifs, and the sunroom had a particularly difficult to remove Thomas Kinkade border. So far most of the wallpaper has been stripped and several cans of paint applied, although much remains to be done. Things would have gone faster but for the wonky electrical wiring that need attention, requiring holes to be knocked in walls and lots of wire pulling and trying to figure out just what was going on.
There had been lots of ‘creative’ solutions had been applied to the wiring that were simply unsafe. The house needed a good electrician and luckily one moved in. While he complained of the work, I could tell he was glad to be once more using his skills.
I think I’ll leave things there for a bit. I’m putting togehter my 20 in 20 lists ala Gretchen Rubin, and one of the things on that list is to give this blog a little more attention.
Have a peaceful and happy Christmas and all the best for 2020.
Yes, this blog, never very noisy, has been extra quiet. Most of my belongings are packed in boxes awaiting the big move the first week in May. It’s been a hectic few weeks, but I feel like I’m on top of things. I’d like to move into a new home, but that doesn’t like like it’s going to happen. So everything is being put in storage until just the right house pops up. Then, I look forward to painting and decorating and making it ours. And, getting some garden put in. I miss my gardens!
I’m not sure what type of Throw Back Thursday post this is. Surely not uplifting or lighthearted. I’ve been hesitant to write about my husband’ disease. Perhaps because we live it everyday, I have no energy to relive it in writing. Nevertheless this is what I remember of when we first learned my husband had Parkinson’s Disease. I’m not even sure I’m remembering this all correctly. This will seem disjointed as I dig up small details from a time that already seems distant.
A stiffness in one hand and arm. A slight limp. We attributed it all to sleeping in an awkward position and a fall on the ski-out at Sunshine in April of 2005. A chiropractor that finally admitted he couldn’t do anything to fix these problems, suggests a visit to the GP. The doctor makes a referral to a local neurologist. July 2005 and My husband goes to the appointment alone. A mistake. The neurologist diagnoses Parkinsonism. I know what you have, he announces. He says it like my husband has just won a highly improbably lottery. My husband, at that first appointment hears only Parkinsons. This is not news you should face alone.
If I could use one word to describe the weeks immediately following this news it would be blackness.
I believe it was the second appointment when the neurologist prescribed medications. There is a chair for my husband and I stand with my back to the wall in a corner of the office. I already dislike this doctor, who has made me feel like an inconvenient interloper. From where I stand, I read the computer screen. The diagnoses is actually Multiple Systems Atrophy.
My husband takes two weeks off of work as he ramps up the medication. The medications however, quickly prove more troublesome than the symptoms they were to alleviate. He is unable to drive, is paralyzingly fatigued and suffers from mental fog. He spends most of the day laying on lounge chair on the deck.
He still doesn’t know about the original diagnoses of MSA, a disease with a lifespan of less than ten years after diagnoses, and still doesn’t. And probably won’t unless he reads this blog. That’s okay.
Now that all the Christmas decorations are put away I needed something fun to put on my front door. This was a quick craft that I whipped up while hubby was watching the hockey game this evening. Cardstock letters are Mod Podged to an inexpensive signboard I bought at Michaels. I made a sign like this several years ago when I first got my Cricut and it is still holding together well with only a little fading of the colors.
In lieu of an interesting ‘photo a day’ this will have to do. I remember having this problem last time I did a photo a day challenge. During the winter months the scenery started to look all alike. And sometimes it was just too cold and wintry to go out exploring and looking for something new.
As friendly a January day as is possible. Sunshine, blue skies, fluffy clouds, a frozen pond and a beautiful old barn.
At one time, it would have been filled with loads and loads of hay for the dairy cattle that lived in brick dairy barns beside it. The brick barns are long gone, and only a little rubble left. Only this structure and a hodge-podge frame house remain, along with the impressive brick gate posts that marked the entrance to the “City Dairy”.
I wish this old barn was mine. What would I fill it with?
Tim Ferriss's 4-Hour Workweek and Lifestyle Design Blog. Tim is an author of 5 #1 NYT/WSJ bestsellers, investor (FB, Uber, Twitter, 50+ more), and host of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast (400M+ downloads)