“Snowmaggedon” 2017

I’m sure many of us have admired Currier and Ives Christmas card scenes — picturesque drifts of snow, frosty wreaths on doors and gates glistening under a dusting of fresh powder, shoppers bustling along sidewalks, smiling and greeting each other. Maybe the spire of a country church is outlined against a brilliant winter sky. Or a farmhouse nestles into a stand of snow-laden trees, windows outlined with twinkling coloured lights.

Then there are the beautiful nature scenes. So very pretty!

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It’s all very magical and nostalgic. The trouble is, this isn’t the entire picture. While admiring such scenes, there’s a reality we tend to forget.

Impassable roads, burdened branches and breaking trees…

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Damaged power lines…

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Constant clearing of snow and ice to facilitate going anywhere on sidewalks, driveways and roads…

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(Yes, everyone helps!)

Trying to salvage expensive garden shrubs, often to no avail…

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Are you getting the picture? I love the beauty of a fresh snowfall as much as anyone does, but if you’d been within earshot this past week you’d likely have heard my hubby and me muttering about the dratted white stuff. After all, enough is enough!

All these photos were taken on our property and street. The heaviest snowfall we’ve had in twenty years blanketed the neighbourhood over several days last weekend, taking down trees and power lines, and plunging us into four days without electricity — no lights, cookstoves or water. Fortunately, we do have a wood-burning fireplace in the family room, plus three kerosene lamps, and an emergency supply of bottled water. We spent most of our days huddled in the one warm room which usually stayed around 15-17 degrees celsius as long as we got up a few times during the nights to keep stoking the fire. The bedrooms, however, were a chilly five degrees. Thank goodness for cozy down duvets!

Of course we survived. I suppose it was an adventure of sorts, but we’ve seen enough snow for now. I’m thankful to have all our electrical conveniences back. I’d be happy to get our television cable restored, too (it’s been off for a week), but that’s a minor inconvenience.

I’m ready for spring. Crocuses and snowdrops are buried somewhere under all this white stuff and we’re hoping the predicted warming trend  will soon return us to more typical balmy west coast February weather. I think our local critters would appreciate that, too. These guys are camping out on our back deck, begging for extra birdseed.

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(Douglas Squirrel)

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(Varied Thrush)

No, there’s no real point to this post. I’m just complaining a bit. Once in a while a body just has to let loose and rant. 🙂

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Winter Solstice 2016

Today is officially the first day of Winter — the Winter Solstice — although the snow and below-freezing temperatures arrived two weeks ago. The first snowfall was powdery and dusted everything in the picturesque way that my imagination always likes to remember.

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First 2016 snowfall — the back deck at Wildwood

Unfortunately this is the mild west coast of Canada and before long the reality of our winter always hits. This week temperatures have been climbing, and thick wet flakes quickly doubled the amount shown here before changing to rain showers. Now we have ten inches of snow packing down under an icy crust and it will probably all wash away before Christmas.

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Icy snow crystals melting on the windshield

Still, on this first day of Winter, it’s beautiful to look at from indoors. This is what I’ll try and remember when it all turns to slush and mud.

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We’re preparing hearts and home
for the coming celebration.

May rich blessings be yours this Christmastime!

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Honestly…I DO like birds

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I love birds; I really do. But the last couple years a pair of juncoes have decided they would like to nest in the hanging basket on the deck beside our patio door. I’m sorry, guys, but IT’S THE WRONG PLACE. I have significant time and money invested in that basket and I need to be able to water it daily, fertilize it weekly and regularly deadhead its blooms.

They don’t care. They also apparently don’t care that my hubby barbecues underneath it, that our table is frequently occupied under the umbrella beside it, or that there can be significant activity on the deck around it. For instance, a few weeks from now there will be about sixty people milling around during our annual church barbecue.

We tried surveyor’s tape, fluttering a discouragement. Then we tried hiding the basket out of sight.

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Now it’s temporarily covered by an old apron, barricading against their nest-building access during times when we aren’t around to guard it.

 

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They don’t seem interested in the tubs that sit on the deck — not that I’d want them there either — it’s just the hanging baskets that appeal. They fly in, burrow between the plants and excavate a hole into which they start importing their building material, leaving remnants on the deck underneath. The splats they leave on the window as they come and go aren’t desirable either.

It’s not as if there aren’t other nearby nesting places available to them. We live amidst trees. Lots of them. It’s a forest, for goodness sakes! There’s even a nesting box. But, no, they are persistent. Well, guess what. So am I. If I’m not, there will soon be eggs and babies, and at that point I wouldn’t have the heart to dislodge them. My basket will soon look pathetic as the heat dries it out and kills the plants. So for now I must be vigilant. Sorry, little juncoes, but GO AWAY.

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I tried to extricate a writing analogy from all this, but the only one that comes to mind is the need for persistence. In the goal for publication we first need to research the right places — appropriate agents or publishing houses — and then keep sending out queries until the ideal match is made.

Now if these juncoes would learn that lesson, too, we’d all be happy.

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JUNE 17 UPDATE:

It seems we managed to discourage their occupancy of our hanging baskets, only to redirect their efforts to the deck tubs. Sometime between dawn and 8:00 a.m. they managed to almost complete the construction of a nest in the centre of one tub. ::sigh:: Really, guys, this is taking persistence to a ridiculous level!

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The Before and After…

“On budget and on time” … yes! Four weeks to the day, our bathroom renovation was complete, and we’re very pleased with the result. We didn’t dislike the original decor, but after twenty-five years an update was definitely called for.

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Our desire for the new look was classic white on white, and we chose bianco carrara tile for the tub surround, floor and baseboards, highlighted with a metallic and glass mosaic trim. Counters are a dark-ish grey quartz installed on medium grey cabinets, and all fixtures are now white. I still don’t have the window covering made, but it’ll come eventually. There are only trees beyond the window; it’s not as if we need curtains for privacy, but a bit of fabric might be nice to soften the look.

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So here are the “before” and “after” photos. The serene white and grey monochromatics won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s what we were looking for. A fresh new spa-like look for spring 2016.

The next renovation will be our en suite bathroom, but at the cost of renovations, it won’t be something that’s going to happen anytime soon. Maybe in another year or two. Maybe.

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My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

[Isaiah 32:18]

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Awaiting a Transformation: Butterflies, Bathrooms and Books

Butterflies returned to our garden this week. I see them flitting from one bright bloom to another. This one’s favourite spot to hover seems to be the lilac bush beside our back deck.

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I’ve been hovering out there a lot, too, escaping the dust and noise of the bathroom renovation inside. Not that it’s been a negative experience … the renovation has been going smoothly, well supervised by the cheerful and very efficient contractor. It’s the disruption of our usual household routine, having people coming and going every day, and trying to maintain separation between our curious Labrador and the busy workmen.

This weekend, as work winds to a conclusion, we have a second Labrador here — we’re dog sitting — and she isn’t so much curious as she is affronted at strangers being allowed in our house. We keep shushing her barks and assuring her that they are no longer strangers to us, and they’re creating something new and beautiful out of our twenty-five year old bathroom. Like the butterfly, it has undergone a metamorphosis. (You’re going to be subjected to photos next week.)

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Metamorphosis is a fascinating process (at least, in butterflies, although there are similarities with our bathroom).

First, an egg has to be produced, the larva or caterpillar has to hatch and be nurtured. Then it must pupate while the transformation takes place. And finally, after about a month, the adult butterfly emerges.

In our bathroom metamorphosis, the seed of an idea was first produced, followed by a period of planning, researching products, and finding a contractor. Then we watched and waited as the actual transformation happened. Finally, almost a month later, we’re about to reveal the finished room.

Interesting … it occurs to me that writing a book is a whole lot like this same process. Granted, a book takes me considerably longer than a month to produce, but in due time it comes to fruition. Now, if I could always ensure the end result would be as lovely as my bathroom or the butterfly, I’d be content! 🙂

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Happy Birthday, Wild Child!

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Maybe by referring to him as our “Wild Child” we have unconsciously been sending negative vibes that help perpetuate the cyclone-like behaviour. People often say that a Labrador’s brain doesn’t kick in until they are at least three years old. Some warn that it’s more like five or six years, while others admit sometimes it never does. Whatever the case, “Clipper”, our sweet natured but extremely bouncy Labrador Retriever, shows no indication of impending maturity. Of course, he’s only just reaching his first birthday this weekend (on May 15).

We should have named him “Tigger”. He really does bear a striking resemblance, right down to having what we’re sure is a built-in pogo stick.

 

He hasn’t been in a show ring yet. We’re hoping that by the time he gains enough maturity to be able to walk sedately on a lead, he’ll also have outgrown the assumption that anyone stooping down to touch him is extending an invitation to be licked and jumped upon, simultaneously.

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“Who, me??? But I have to show everyone how much I love them!!”

Fortunately, we love him, too. A lot. Otherwise he would have been shuffled out of here long ago.

I’m trying  to figure out a way to model one of my novel’s characters after him, but none of them is meant to have a Jekyll and Hyde personality.

Ah, well … Happy First Birthday, Clipper! No pogo stick for you, or lima beans, but maybe a piece (or two) of cheese and a new toy.

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Hanging on to the Inconsequential

They’re scattered everywhere, and at our house if you get up in the middle of the night as I occasionally do, you really need to watch your step.

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I’m quite partial to the décor choices of interior designer Candice Olson. Until her television program, ‘Divine Design’, moved to a channel we don’t get, I watched it faithfully. I also ‘like’ her Facebook page. On it today was a post about a bedroom she decorated, with an explanation of its features:

“To add warmth and personality to this bedroom, we snuggled a settee between two cabinets. Not only did this settee allow us to introduce interesting fabrics and visual warmth in the space, but it serves as that perfectly placed bed pillow catcher!”

That’s when it struck me. Why have we fallen into the decorating trap of piling pillows everywhere?

Before my hubby and I can crawl into bed each night, we must first remove seven pillows. Seven! There’s a pair with quilted shams that match our duvet, another colour-matched sleep-sized pair, two smaller hand stitched matelassé ones plus a square accent cushion.

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Cushions on our living room and family room couches look nice, but every time I sit down I first have to re-arrange them to make room. Often as not they end up on the floor.

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So what purpose do they serve? Other than adding a pretty splash of colour, I’m not convinced of their value, but I can’t imagine tossing them out. They may be a nuisance, but I’m used to them. They’re part of the décor.

In some ways it’s a little like useless passages in our writing – bits of description, mundane dialogue, interesting but unimportant scenes – all inconsequential and irrelevant as far as moving the story forward. They’re of no value but we like writing them and they can be hard to cut. We’ve all heard the saying, “Kill your darlings.” So, should we be ruthless in eliminating them, or does it really matter?

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