"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

It's not the heat, it's the - oh, who are we kidding? It IS the heat!

Ever since the first winter I've been coming to Blair's Grove, I have begged the boys to put on a nice woodstove fire for me. They refused. There was always some excuse - the ashes haven't been cleaned out, D doesn't know how to start a proper fire, the chimney will catch on fire, we don't have enough wood, it's not cold enough outside, you didn't bring your bikini, etc. Well, yesterday when the power went out thanks to the 70km/hr winds, I got my wish.

I'm accustomed to the crackling warmth afforded by my Dad's modest woodstove at the cabin. It throws off just enough heat to make me feel pleasantly drowsy, and I love the campfirey smell that stays in my hair and on my clothes afterwards. I was not prepared for the raging, creosote scented inferno that lasted 8 hours and made me feel as though I was bathing in lava.

I should have known what I'd be in for when C came marching up from the basement, grimly carrying two chunks of wood, each as big as my torso. "You want a fire, eh, Kimmy?" he said, creaking open the blackened doors of the ancient woodstove and shoving the wood in as far as it would go. "Well, I'll build ya a fire."

15 minutes later, I was basking happily in the delicious warmth. I'd plunked myself in the rocking chair that sits in the corner of the dining room, where the woodstove is the centre of attention. With my book on my lap, the dog at my feet and a cold glass of soda with lime within reach, I was in mecca.

Carm smirked at me. "So you're gonna sit in here, are you?"

"Well, yeah," I said, with a "duh" look on my face. "That's the whole point of having a fire."

Deeper smirk from my brother in law. "Okay then. Have fun." He glanced at the indoor thermometer on the dining room desk, which read 22 degrees, then left to do chores. Sighing with pleasure, I opened my book. 10 minutes later, I was opening a window and discarding my sweater and socks. The thermometer read 28 degrees.
Another 10 minutes passed and the thermometer hit 30. I contemplated putting on shorts, but couldn't lift my sweat-soaked body out of the chair to find them. When it hit 32, I called up to the farm. My mother-in-law laughed at me. "Are you warm enough?"

One thing about me is that I can't take too much heat. I bypass irritable and go straight to bitch from hell when the temperature gets past 29 degrees. So there I was, in a foul mood, trying to get as far away as possible from the fire I'd so desperately longed for. Neko had long since retreated to the bathroom and had her head up against the cool porcelain toilet. I ended up sitting in the far corner of the living room, window cranked open fully, storm winds pummelling me while I gasped for breath.

D was in his glory when he got home. He loves the heat. He promptly scolded me for having windows open and stretched out on the couch, basking in the 33 degree temperature. "Ahhh," he said, smiling his lovely creased smile, "now this is more like it." I think it's the only time I've declined to cuddle with him on the couch.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Doggie Dreams

Neko has found her happy place, and unfortunately it's on the thick pile carpet in C's study where I work most of the day.

Neko has been expressly forbidden from going into any of the carpeted rooms here in Blair's Grove, but somehow she's managed to inch and sneak her way into the study. At first, C would catch her in here and glare at both of us balefully. I'd shoo Neko out, pretending she'd just arrived or that I hadn't noticed her there. But truthfully, there's something soothing about having a dog stretched out beside you while you work or write or play scrabble. C's rarely here in the daytime so I figured it would be Neko's little secret.

Once C caught on to our attempted deviousness, he brought in a rug for Neko to lie on. Sadly, Neko is not interested in parking her carcass on a dollar store rug. She prefers the carpet, the nice, grey, squishy, warm, expensive carpet. The one that will require severe steam cleaning eventually to remove all traces of her doggyness.

So, through sheer canine determination, Neko is now free to spend her slothful days in the study, head stuffed under the bed, body splayed out in varying degrees of weirdness across the carpet. And for most of the day, she seems content. But approximately 5 or 6 times a day, she has a bad dream. I've never known a dog that has such terrible dreams as she does. Her whole body twitches, her legs paddle and thrash spastically, her lips curl and her ears go backwards. She moans, woofs, yelps, growls, cries and basically makes me feel miserable until I pet her and say a few soothing words to snap her out of it. I can only assume these dreams are in fact nightmares, because the look on her face when I wake her up is one of dazed relief.

One has to wonder what it is dogs actually dream about. I can't imagine that dreams about rawhide or rotten groundhogs or even racoon encounters would cause her this much sleep strife. I guess I'll never know.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008


I have a suspicion that walking is better for the soul than it is for the body. I want to believe that being outside, striding along, can help to heal just about anything that ails us metaphysically, emotionally or mentally. I will be walking a lot this week and next for a variety of reasons; mostly I'm hoping my suspicions are correct.

My Dad is a famous walker; he goes for miles in the woods in search of game in any type of weather, even now, at 72. I remember our old neighbour Tony telling me I was a "high stepper," just like my Dad, after he watched me walk across the lawns that separated our properties in New Hamburg. I have an especially favourite memory of walking through the food court at Eaton's Centre when I was about 18. A bit oblivious to the crowds, I was wandering around trying to find a good place to eat. As I walked past two men sitting at a table, I overheard one guy murmur to another, "Mmm, mm, check her ass," and realized with some surprise that he was talking about me. "Yeah," said his companion, "and I like the way she walk." Embarrassed and a little flattered, I became so self-conscious about my walk I could barely stagger out of the food court.

But I digress.

A few nights ago, Neko and I sallied forth into the frigid night air for some soul-cleansing. I was grumpy and she was restless. There was only a sliver of moon to light our way, although the stars were brilliant. I disdain the use of flashlights; they wreck the mood of walking through the woods in semi-darkness. You can't feel close to nature or fully at peace with the night when you're waving an artificial beam of light around in front of you. Neko is only a semi-reliable guide; she likes to veer off the path and into various snowbanks, which is not helpful when you're counting on her to lead the way and end up thigh-deep in snow.

The darkness was ever-so-slightly creepy, and the night was very still. Have you noticed how many different types of silences there are? The silence of an empty house, the silence when you drive your car wtih the radio off, the silence of the fields, forest or waterfront. Night-time silences seem more profound than any of these, somehow. But you can be still inside when there is silence blanketing you from every side, especially when that silence is coated in darkness.

Even with a hundred pounds of frolicking dog with me - a furry blur several paces ahead, a wet nose against my knee - I felt deliciously alone without being lonely. As we walked down the cottage lane that flanks the lake, we came upon a lone globe lantern, lit at the end of a driveway. The cottage was deserted; no footprints or tire tracks led to it, so I don't know why the light blazed out so stubbornly. I'd never seen it on before and I haven't seen it on since. It made me think of Lantern Waste in the Narnia books - a guidepost, an unexpected beacon, lighting the way briefly before the darkness swallowed me up again.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Tummy Rumbles

As I write this, the scent of cumin, oregano, onion and garlic all mixed together in a pan with beef, olives, eggs and potatos is wafting through C's house. This glorious mixture is patiently waiting for me to spoon it into pastry rounds, seam it up carefully, brush it with egg and pop it in the oven. Yup, it's emapanada night here in Blair's Grove.

I have serious doubts that any of our neighbours are cooking anything remotely ethnic tonight. This neighbourhood seems like a strictly meat n' potato joint, which is fine, but sometimes I crave flavours beyond Kraft Italian dressing.

I only make these delightful Filipino meat pastries once in a blue moon; they're a two-hour labour of kitchenish love that I rarely have time for. But I've had a pretty luxurious day of doing not much of anything, so I decided to treat my hardworking husband to a nourishing, if unusual, supper. He's been up at Someday Farm today and yesterday assisting his cousin the electrician with the wiring. I miss spending time with D, esp. since I'm off to Montreal for a 5 day holiday without him - but I know I shouldn't whinge about it. The house is getting finished, bit by bit, day by day, and all the help he can lend will only get us there sooner. We will (fingers crossed, wood knocked) hopefully be able to move in by late April. Yes, I mean April 2008.

But back to the cooking. I love cooking. I used to hate it, because I was told more than once by my ex that I wasn't very good at it. He used to do most of the cooking, which was fine by me at the time, since he was a great cook and worked from home. I usually didn't have the energy nor the inclination to make supper every night. But when I did feel inspired to attempt making something on weekends, I usually got gently ridiculed. When you're repeatedly told your stuff doesn't taste "right", you start believing it. I couldn't understand it, since both my mother and my Nana were fabulous in the kitchen. I chalked it up to lack of practice and patience, but it still hurt my feelings. It seemed shameful that I was breaking the tradition of excellent cooking in my family. I realize now it was probably more of a power thing than the fact that my cooking actually sucked; I say with some confidence that I could easily cook my ex under the table these days.

At any rate, D is a much more tolerant recipient of my efforts. My vegetarian Thai peanut stir fry has become his favourite ("I'd eat this stuff for dessert!"), he moans over my venison sausage & pepper pasta, and admits my Treehugger Vegetarian chili is "not bad - for not having meat."

I swear, there is nothing the man won't eat. Even if he doesn't like something I make (like the time I accidentally flavoured the tabbouleh salad with an overdose of lemon), down it goes. Must have something to do with growing up on a farm and having to fight to the death for that last pork chop with his brothers. C also comes sniffing around the kitchen when I'm in there; he seems to enjoy the leftovers I reserve for him after chores. I guess he likes a change from roast beef and the other staples his mother effortlessly serves. Her giant suppers put me to shame - I don't have the talent or forsight to cook the enormous amounts of food that she does. I've never cooked a turkey, and I've only done a roast of beef a few times. But she doesn't experiment with too many spices or try to make things from other cultures. I delight in trying new recipes, especially if they're different from our usual fare.

Pregnancy advice on eating abounds; I'm leaning towards Deepak Chopra's advice - a true departure in leanings for me, as I'm not a big 'new age' fan - to eat with awareness, and incorporate the "six tastes of life" into my diet: sweet, sour, salty, pungent and bitter. Sounds a lot like life to me.

Cooking for boys has become a fun pastime. I just wish D would hurry up and get home so we could eat!