Thursday 29 December 2022

The aftermath of Christmas, storms, customer service, and loss.

According to Eli, Christmas was the "best day ever". So despite a couple of hiccups, that's good enough for me. The first hiccup was the snow that fell overnight. I heard the wind howling about 2 a.m. and looked out to see the snow had started, and by noon on Christmas day, we had about 20 cms. (8 inches) of fresh snow. It had blown and drifted so was deeper in several places. 

We went out to shovel after lunch, and Eli to play in the snow. D and I had cleared about 1/3 of the driveway when the neighbour from two doors down, arrived with his snow blower. I've been here for over 12 years, and this neighbour who recently immigrated from Egypt is the first to offer any assistance. D called him our Christmas miracle. Later, I took over a tin of Christmas baking to say thank you. We would have eventually got everything cleared, but it would have taken us much longer. 

D's town got closer to 30 cms. (12 inches), and she was able to contact a local company to arrange to clear the area behind her garage, and from the garage to the back door. They did that on Boxing Day before she arrived home. 

I'm grateful for the neighbour's help, and grateful too that we didn't get as much snow as areas of Ontario did. While the snow wasn't wanted, it did come with warmer temperatures. It was -12C (10F) when D and Eli headed for home on the 26th. 

I spent the day puttering, washing the bedsheets (in cold water), tidying up the toys, and just putting things back where they belonged. Mostly I sat and rested, and enjoyed the peace and quiet. I do love my daughter and grandson, but they certainly are noisy!

My brother and SIL were able to get out on their flight to Phoenix on the 26th as well. That gives me a lot of hope that everything should be operating normally by the time I head south. However, their trip wasn't without snafus either, as they were lined up at the airport for 2 1/2 hours to retrieve their rental car, with another 2 hour drive ahead of them to their final destination. I heard from him later in the day, and he said they arrived at the hotel at 3 a.m. local time (4 a.m. our time); a very long day. Travelling during the holidays is not easy! 

Then, just to add insult to injury, the basketball team's flight the next day was cancelled, so the coach decided they wouldn't go at all. R and P weren't planning to return until Sunday but were able to change their flights to Friday. As I told him, at least they were in a beautiful place to celebrate P's birthday. I certainly hope their return trip is less problematic.

Back at home, the other major hiccup, was an issue hot water heater. I realized the water wasn't as hot as it would normally be on Christmas day evening. The following morning, I had no hot water and after trying to re-light the pilot light several times, I contacted the rental company. The first available appointment was two days later on Wednesday! The call agent indicated she would escalate it, hoping that someone would be able to fit me in sooner. 

Tuesday brought more weather woes, with a freezing rain alert. Thankfully we didn't get a whole lot of freezing rain in my part of the city - there was about coating of about 1/4 inch on the deck railings and garbage bin, but we did get more snow overnight on top of it.  The highways outside the city were hit pretty hard and several roads were closed. There were also areas of the city where the power was out for some time.  The rain didn't reach my daughter's town an hour and a half away, but they got another 10 cms. (4 inches) of snow! She wasn't very happy when I talked her the next morning.

On Wednesday I called the hot water heater company again for an update and discovered that first thing on Wednesday actually meant between 4 and 8 p.m. Again, the agent I spoke with assured they would attempt to escalate my call. At 3:55 p.m. I received a call from a tech stating he was on the way over. Within 10 minutes, after manually starting it up again, he had the water heater working. He stayed and kept an eye on it for about 25 minutes before he said he felt comfortable it was working properly. A couple of hours later the hot water was hot and I took a shower. 

Thursday was my day to run errands. I needed to get to the bank to pick up cash for my trip, pick up cat food and cat litter, and a few other items. I got those things done and shovelled the driveway and sidewalk again. 

The day ended on a sad note. My friend C's mom L passed away; she had been hospitalized just prior to Christmas and took a turn for the worse that morning. She had been transferred to another hospital, but there was little to be done. The family met and made the difficult decision to provide comfort care as  treatment wasn't working. I had several messages during the morning, and mid-afternoon the final message came in saying L was now in heaven. I've known C for nearly 30 years, her mom for probably 25 years or so. We haven't seen one another for several years but kept in touch via FB. We were both fans of curling and often chatted on-line about the games and the teams. Now she is at rest, once again breathing freely, and reunited with her husband. May she rest in peace.

I'm ending this week's post here - I going to follow Eli's lead and crawl under a blanket or a bit. I'll definitely post before I get away next week. 

Saturday 24 December 2022

Here comes Santa Claus, or is it Eli?

This week brought our coldest temperatures (yet), so my opinion of winter hasn't changed much from last week. I am grateful to be in a (generally) warm and comfortable home, and that I had the presence of mind to get my Christmas shopping (mostly) done early. 

Just to give you an idea of what we were dealing with, Tuesday - the coldest day, we woke to windchills near -50C (-58F). While the outside temps were in the -30's, the wind that blew made it seem much colder. My son has a flexible schedule so I suggested he take the day off work. When my children were in high school, they both took the city bus about a 45 - 60 minute ride. I had a rule - if the windchill was -40 or lower they could stay home. It has always seemed foolish to me that we venture out when we don't have to, and though school was important, there was always the chance the bus would be late, or break down and my child(ren) would be standing at a bus stop for a period long enough to cause frost bite.

However, having said that, I did have some last minute grocery shopping to do, so I headed out on Wednesday - it was slightly warmer - I think the windchill was in the mid -30's. I drove first to the drop off centre with my bag of scarves, mitts, and toques, about a 20 minute drive,  only to find they aren't taking donations at this time (this wasn't V.V. or Salvation Army). I should have tried to find the warming center that recently opened up but I wasn't entirely sure where it was located. I'll try to do that between Christmas and New Years. 

From there I headed off to Value Village, where I found a few craft items for D and I, and a new-to-me set of pillowcases. Then it was off to the Co-op and Superstore for the groceries. I found a chicken we'll have for Christmas dinner. Sheesh, I should have bought a turkey instead - a small chicken cost as much as the larger birds. Oh well, it's Christmas. My daughter and I had talked about Christmas Eve dinner, and decided to keep it simple, just meat and cheese,  crackers, sausage rolls, veggies and dip, and French fries for Eli. I was half expecting to see my brother and his family, but our schedules didn't mesh. He did drop by on Friday to exchange gifts.

I packaged up a container of my baking to send home with my brother and his family as well. Brother, SIL, and niece are heading to Phoenix on Boxing Day (maybe) for a basketball tournament. But they have her sister and nephew for Christmas and R said he expects it will all disappear by the time they leave town on the 26th. I'm not entirely sure they'll actually be able to fly out.

Travel is, as it seems to be across North America, quite dicey at the moment. Due to a snow storm in Vancouver and Victoria, and then Toronto got hit as well, many flights have been delayed or cancelled. As the director of our local airport said on the news, when flights don't arrive here, none can go out either. My travel agent sent me a quick e-mail to confirm that I have interruption and delay benefits in my insurance policy (I do), and she mentioned she'd managed to get a family to their final destination, when they'd thought they'd be spending the night sleeping in the airport after their connecting flight was cancelled. She truly is a wonderful person and does everything she can for her clients.

I had forgot to run an errand for D, so had to go out again on Thursday. Again, it had warmed up slightly but that wind chill was still ridiculous, -38C! I was out of the car briefly, but it was a quick trip. I had noticed a woman and small child in a bus shelter on the opposite side of the street when I pulled into the mall parking lot. I made my stop at the bank, and then drove back so that I would be on their side of the street intending to offer her a ride - I was happy to see the bus had arrived or someone else had picked them up.

To add insult to injury, this cold weather has also been accompanied by more snow.  I haven't cleared the driveway or the sidewalk since Monday. I'm risking a $300 fine from the city, but I don't think any of my neighbours will complain - I've seen no one out walking. The cold snap is supposed to ease sometime this weekend. I've convinced D that she is NOT to leave her town until daylight. I expect they'll be here before lunch, and then the noise level will rise significantly.

Eli had his very first Christmas concert this week. We weren't certain he would be able to go on stage, but he did it. He even sang along on the second song, Jingle Bells! This photo was taken before the event started and he's wearing his noise cancelling headphones and carrying his "stuffy". He'd been coughing quite a bit during the day so D put a mask on his as well.
She was able to sit next to him, just off to side, and encouraged him throughout the program. The principal was kind enough to use D's phone to capture it on video so I was able to see it, and his sweet bow to the audience at the end of the performance.

Once their part was done, so was he, so they didn't stay for the rest of the program. He is very sensitive to noise, though he doesn't seem to notice his own noisiness. :) Wednesday was his last day of kindergarten to the near year, and he was able to wear pj's for the day and they watched a movie in class, ate popcorn and then went to play in the gym. He thought that was pretty great.

I got caught up on housework on Friday, and got the bedding washed, and remade the bed for D and Eli. Other than feeding the birds, and taking the garbage out, I stayed indoors and stayed warm. I'm as ready as I'm going to be for the big day. Most of all I'm looking forward to spending time with my favorite little guy. For the moment, I'm enjoying the peace and quiet of the morning.

However you choose to spend the day, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. 


Wednesday 21 December 2022

In memory of Grandpa

This post is likely not of much interest to my readers, so feel free to skip if you like. I'm preparing some information for my extended family and thought I'd add it to the blog.

Today is the 123rd anniversary of my maternal grandfather's birth. Born in Huron County, Ontario, John W. Stewart was the fourth of nine children born to Hugh and Elizabeth Stewart. For some reason, he wasn't given a middle name, just an initial. 

The entire family moved to Bratt's Lake, Saskatchewan in 1912. His father was a grain buyer at a grain elevator nearby. There were several elevators operating at the time, and I'm not certain which company he worked for.

Most of the following information is taken from a history of the family published in the town's history book.

When Grandpa was old enough to enlist, he followed his older brother to Vancouver to join the Northwest Mounted Police, however unlike Alex, Grandpa decided it wasn't for him. He had been assigned to the docks in Vancouver, and when he received word that his father had been badly injured in an accident, it was a good excuse to buy his way out of the service and he returned to Saskatchewan. 

While working as an orderly in the Weyburn Mental Hospital, he met Mary Jordan and the two were married in Oct. 1927. Nan was a nurse working at the Weyburn General Hospital at the time. After they married, the couple moved to Saskatoon. Work was difficult to find, so Grandpa worked as a taxi driver and Nan cooked at a restaurant.

Their first child, my mother, was born in Saskatoon in Dec. 1928. The small family planned to move to a homestead near Snowden, Saskatchewan in 1930, but spent the winter in a rental house in Nipawin, where their second child was born. That spring, the family headed for the homestead where the land had to be cleared for planting. The logs were used to build a small barn and a one roomed house. Two more children were born while they lived there, the last in a nearby town hospital. 

In 1935, Grandpa had had enough of farming and moved his family to Nipawin. He occupied himself by hauling grain for local farmers, sold lumber on consignment in the cities for local planers, and hauled firewood into town for winter heating. Later, he purchased a truck, built a gravel box and went into road construction. During the war years, Nan went back to work as nurse at the local hospital, as Grandpa wasn't well and they needed the income.

Grandpa and Nan, along with the assistance of their children and a family friend, built a house in Nipawin. Initially the family camped out in the garage, and moved into the unfinished house in the fall. A ladder was used to climb to the second floor, and if one looked down while climbing, they'd see clear through to the basement.

I assume, some time after the house was finished his parents lived there too. His mother passed away in 1944, and his father in 1949. I recall my mother telling me her grandmother was bedridden in an upstairs bedroom before she passed. 

By 1956, their children were grown and living away from home and the couple decided to try the oil patch in Alberta. Grandpa bought a water truck and they stayed there for 11 years. (This is a point I don't agree with. I started school in 1965 and I recall walking to and from their house for lunch each day until I was in Grade 3.)

Grandpa continued to work for a number of years as a gas jockey for a couple of car dealerships. Sadly, he suffered a stroke in 1971, and when Nan passed away suddenly in May 1972, our family moved from the farm to town to live with him for several months. He had several more strokes, and due to the level of care required he was moved to the nursing home less than a year later. He passed away in July 1976.

All of this information tells you what Grandpa did, but not much about who he was. I was only 17 when he passed away, but I have early memories of him. When we were children, he and Nan used to come to the farm most Sunday afternoons for dinner. Grandpa always called us kids, rats and I took to calling him mouse as I got older. Somehow I thought that was funny, :p. 

After dinner, Grandpa always took a nap on the couch - I think it was his way of getting out of helping with the clean up of the kitchen. Heaven help the child who disturbed his sleep. Once awake, he and Nan would head back into town. I don't recall him every playing with us and there was never a hug. In fact, neither he nor Nan were demonstrative, even with their own children.

Grandpa didn't seem to keep a job very long throughout his life, always chasing a new venture, and his time in the oil patch - however long that was - would have been unusual for him. There are family rumours (not confirmed) that at one point, my mother was supporting her parents when she got her teaching certificate. I do know Grandpa and Nan, when they left for Alberta, had divided the house into apartments that were let out. Before that, my mom and dad lived with them for a period of time before we moved to the farm. There was still one apartment on the main floor that became my parents bedroom when we moved there so mom could care for her dad.

Grandpa wasn't necessarily a "fun" grandparent. He certainly never played a game with us, but he was a constant in our lives. He liked to tease us and we could count on a Christmas gift of a $2 bill.  Sadly, after suffering a number of strokes, he became cantankerous and would yell at us for "making tracks" in his carpet. However, we had the whole upstairs of the house in town to ourselves so could avoid him when he was in a bad mood. 

By the time he passed away, his dementia was so severe he no longer remembered any of his family. He often thought mom was Nan, and would ask her "who the hell are those kids" pointing to the photos of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the dresser in his nursing home room. Yet, he could remember in great detail things that had happened back in the '30's and 40's. He'd often tell mom that he'd been out all night working on one project or another. I visited the nursing home once about a year before he passed away, and found it so disturbing I didn't return. 

In any event, he was a big part of my early childhood, and I often wish we would have had a few more years to get to know one another.

I believe this photo would have been taken in the late 60's. He definitely was a dapper fellow. 

Saturday 17 December 2022

Winter of my discontent

Have I mentioned recently how much I dislike winter? It's only mid-December and I'm already tired of shovelling snow, bundling up in a parka, mitts, and toque just to take out the garbage, chapped lips and dry hands...  Well, you get the picture. We had a couple of reasonable winter days, meaning overcast, not too cold, and no snow.  However, on Wednesday, a Colorado low moved in from the southeast, and another storm came from the northwest. Here in the city we didn't get as much as other areas did, but there was another 3 inches on the ground when I got out of bed Thursday morning. I had shovelled the inch or so that accumulated by Wednesday afternoon when I returned home after the stitch and chat.

Alright whine over...nothing I can do (yet) or anyone else can do to keep this from happening. I did enjoy our stitch and chat this week; S has returned from Arizona and the lady (Io) I've been meeting with, while she was away was there too. Poor S, she arrived back in Regina the day that the windchill hit -48C. Things haven't improved much, as her car wouldn't start, the picture on her television has gone wonky, and some forms she had sent into to a provincial department were rejected because her cover page said 16 pages, and there were 17 attached because one page was duplicated. You'd think someone on the receiving end would be able to remove the duplicate, but apparently not, and she has to resubmit the documents.

She brought along a couple of knitting pattern books she no longer needs/wants and gave them to me. The patterns are lovely, meant for older children (8-16) and adults. I'm sure I'll be able to use them as Eli keeps growing. Funny that! S also brought a piece of knitting (a UFO) that was tucked away in her closet in Arizona. She had lost the pattern, but we were able to identify it as the moss stitch and with a Google search had the pattern figured out. Io was was finishing sewing buttons on kitchen towels, and then brought out her embroidery. She's making a set of tea towels that are likely to be gifted to her granddaughter.

I had my crocheting with me. I pulled a couple of balls of yarn from the stash and started working on a lap blanket. I'm not a fan of the colors but I need to use up the stash and they do look bright and cheerful together. 

The sugar cookies and red velvet mini-cupcakes were iced and decorated early one morning. Two of the sugar cookies broke as I was working on them, so they and a cupcake were that morning's breakfast. Breakfast of champions? Probably not. :) On the weekend, I had finished the peppermint sandwich cookies. They're tasty, but not nearly as good as my sugar cookies. I'm not sure what I did differently but man, oh man, are they good. 

I've finally caught up on my updates on Ancestry this week. I was thinking I might cancel my subscription but received notice that they've added a number of additional newspapers from Scotland. I'm hoping I might find mention of some of my ancestors, though it is much like looking for a needle in a haystack with the last name of Stewart. Recently, I picked up a book "Online Genealogy", which I've skimmed and I think may help me identify other sources for searching. At the moment, my hopes are pinned on DNA testing. My adult children purchased the kit for me as a Christmas gift, and it arrived a couple of weeks ago. I've mailed it off and received an e-mail this week that it has arrived at the lab. Results are expected with 6-8 weeks. I'm hoping against hope that this information might be the key to finding the links to origins of various family members.

The other (and much more exciting) thing I worked on this week was preparing for my January cruise. My travel agent L and I had a chat Thursday morning and went through her checklist of things for me to remember and consider. She is truly amazing and is so detailed oriented. L was concerned about my airline e-tickets as they have my first name and only my initial for the second name. This doesn't match my passport which has both full names. We went through the list of things to be saved to my phone and items I need or want to have in printed form as well. I was a bit ahead of her on that as I had the printouts and had updated the electronic documents before our call. 

I made a call to the airline and confirmed my full name is in their system, but the tickets will show only my first name and initial. To be certain, I asked the agent several times, and she confirmed it will not be an issue at the counter. My next call was to the hotel to confirm my reservation. I booked through Airmiles, a third party booking system, and wanted to be certain there was no hiccup. Several years ago, I had used Airmiles to book a New York hotel, only to learn on arrival that they had no reservation for me. I had to pay $400 room for the night. On returning home I contacted Airmiles and eventually learned that the booking had been made for February instead of September! They reimbursed me for the cost of the room, but I'll never book again without following up directly with the hotel to confirm.

I pulled out the suitcase and carry-on bag, and went through my summer and "cruise" clothes. Yes, I have certain items I only wear when I'm cruising. I'm hard on my everyday clothing, so I keep some nicer pieces for my trips. This is a 14 day cruise, with an added travel day at the beginning - I always fly in a day ahead, in case there are delays. I've learned to pack enough clothing for 7 days, along with a few nicer items for evening wear, not including the travel day clothing. The ship has a DIY laundromat that I'll use on a sea day. We have eight sea days and four ports and full day transiting the canal. I do enjoy sea days! One port that was initially on the itinerary, Nicaragua, was cancelled - no reason given, but I hadn't planned to get off the ship there anyway. It would been a long bus ride to the nearest city and none of the posted excursions looked particularly worth the travel time and money to me.

Friday, I ran out to pick up a few groceries to get us through the next few days, and more cat food and bird seed. The birds and the squirrels have been inhaling the seed and at least one rabbit is enjoying the feed too. He/she leaves behind evidence of their visit. It was out in the front yard the other day - looks pretty healthy doesn't it?

No curling streaming this week, though there is an event in Japan that I'll be keeping my eye on for the scores. I'm planning to relax this weekend, watch some sports, catch up on PVR'ed television, and continue crocheting the lap blanket. I better not have to shovel any more snow! Shouldn't have to, as the weather forecast is for more cold weather. I'll end this post as I started...I hate winter!

Have a good week ahead everyone.

Saturday 10 December 2022

Nearing the end

There is a reason that weather is a constant topic in this province. We often use the old saying, "if you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes". I wish I could say the cold that blew in on Tuesday moved on that quickly but we were stuck with the wind through the following day as well. I have to tell you, waking up to -36C with a windchill of -48C does not make me happy. I've said it before, (and I'll likely say it again), I wish I could go back in time and tell my ancestors to re-think their choice of location to settle. Of course, I probably wouldn't be here if they had.

Knowing cold weather was heading our way, I went out on Monday, in the relatively warmer -20C (-4F) to get a few groceries, some cat food, and look for a few more Christmas gifts. I spent more on the groceries than I had planned, but I was able to take advantage of some "sale" prices so stocked up on ground pork, ground beef, frozen French fries and vegetables, as well as the always needed toilet paper. The cat's cupboard has at least three weeks of wet food too, though I went with a different brand than Saku is used too as the price on his Fancy Feast has increased again. Hopefully he doesn't turn his nose up at this brand or it will be more expensive in the long run. (A few days in and he seems to like it...of course, with a cat that can change as quickly as the weather.)

I found one item for a Christmas gift for my daughter,  but totally failed in finding Christmas pajamas for Eli. It has become a tradition that G'ma has new pj's for Christmas Eve. Speaking of Eli, he got to have a visit with Santa on Sunday at a local craft fair. I have my own thoughts on what the little stinker was thinking in this photo...and I think Santa needs to learn how to smile. 

With Wednesday's cold so brutal, I had a text from one of the stitching ladies saying she wouldn't be there that day. I thought that was a great idea, so I stayed home too and did a little more Christmas baking. Patty, it was my day for baking mishaps. I mixed together a batch of chocolate cookie dough to make sandwich cookies. The recipe called for two squares of chocolate - I thought that was too little so added four and it wasn't until they were baked that I realized the recipe was calling for 2 ounces of chocolate and not two squares of the baking chocolate. So my chocolate cookies came out a little pale - they taste fine, and they'll taste even better with the peppermint and crushed candy cane icing. The mishaps didn't end there: while the cookie dough was chilling in the fridge, I decided to make a pan of toffee squares (shortbread base, toffee center, chocolate coating). I had the shortbread base in the oven, when I went to open the sweetened condensed milk for the toffee when I realized the can had a bulge in it. I took it over the garbage can, popped the top and discovered it had spoiled. I quickly flipped through my recipes for a topping. Thankfully, the base hadn't fully cooked, so I was able to make butter tart squares. Not exactly what I'd planned but the squares turned out just fine in the end.

Other than another batch of shortbread and a pan of Rice Krispie squares, I'm finished with the baking. But I do need to set an afternoon aside to decorate the sugar cookies and finish the sandwich cookies. True story: Eli doesn't care for home baked cookies and cake. I say, I haven't met a kid who doesn't like Rice Krispie squares...and I plan to add M&M's to the mix. I guess we'll find out on Christmas Eve, whether I'm right.

On the knitting/crocheting front, I finished Eli's mitts on Sunday and packed the set (mitts and toque) and the angels for his teachers and mailed them off to D on Monday. I'd made the cups of cocoa ornaments to add to the gifts for my brother and SIL, and decided I needed to make something for the niece and nephew too. I found this cute pattern for snowmen, so made a pair for them. The pattern for the nose just didn't work for me, so I fiddled around and made something I could live with. I know the carrots aren't truly orange but I didn't have the proper colored yarn and used what I had. I should have used finer yarn for the mouth, but again, I used what I had. They're like anything else I make, I can always see the mistakes and think of ways how I ought to have done things after they're finished.

There is a scarf using some of the thrift store yarn on the needles, and I hope to get another bag of donations ready to drop off next week. AND Eli's sweater continues to languish in the basket waiting to be picked up again. I've put the two fronts and back on the needles so it's just a matter of finishing the bodice but for some reason I keep procrastinating. 

Curling started on Sunday, but I had difficulty streaming it on my laptop. I contacted the network and got a very unhelpful response. The days of telling me to clear my history, shut down the browser and re-open it, are long past. I'd already done everything before I reached out and I told them so in a reply. Funny, I didn't get any further response. The streaming got better as the week went along but I was very annoyed when the connection cut out at the end of a very exciting game and I missed the last two shots of the draw. (Okay, I get that exciting isn't what most people would call it). 

Then on Thursday, when the play-offs were starting at the Everest Canadian Seniors, the Grand Slam of Curling's Masters event was televised. So I switched to watching that, though I'll try to catch the finals of the Seniors today.

I did run out between draws on Thursday and managed to find pj's for Eli, a pair of slippers for my SIL, and a couple of small items for my adult children from Santa. So, with the exception of the gift cards for niece and nephew, I'm done shopping this year. Friday morning, I pulled out all the wrapping paper, bags and tags and got everything wrapped or tucked into the bags. Except for the Santa gifts (which are set aside in the craft room closet) everything is under or beside the tree. I've used more bags this year than ever before - it's far easier than wrapping and I'm lazy.

Well, not entirely, as I needed to shovel once again on Friday. There wasn't a whole lot of snow but the sidewalk needed clearing.  Our city has enacted a bylaw that requires city sidewalks be cleared without 48 hours of snowfall. I'm about 36 hours late but it was too darned cold earlier in the week. It annoys me the city rarely clears residential streets but has a much higher standard for residents. 

This weekend will be spent doing what I enjoy most. Watching curling, knitting, and doing little else. I'll catch up on housework next week. Oh and that ever changing weather. I woke to -14C (7F) and we're forecast to reach -9C (16F) this afternoon. As long as it's not windy, the temperature will feel almost balmy. :) 

Have a great week ahead everyone!

P.S. The neighbour's house just down the street is all lit up for Christmas.

Saturday 3 December 2022

Cold and a cold

No, I didn't buy the bread in Wednesday's photo - I bought a competitors brand that was "on sale" for $2.99 a loaf. I could hardly believe the price on the Dempsters bread - I'm thinking it will go stale on the shelf before it gets sold. Is it any wonder that grocery chains are making profits hand over fist?

The week started out cold and got colder still by mid-week. And the head and chest cold that I thought I avoided finally caught up with me and by Wednesday I was, as my son said, "hacking up a lung". If I hadn't gone out to feed the birds and squirrels that morning, I probably would not have gotten out of my pj's.

Because of the forecast I had gone out Monday and picked up some groceries, dropped off some baking at my friends, and did a Dollar store run. D asked me to check for a certain item that has shown up in stores in Ontario. Of course it wasn't there but I found the nicest paper gift bags. These aren't the shiny paper, but decorated brown paper bags. I'm a big proponent of re-using gift bags, but these were too cute and the price was right too.

Then Thursday arrived with slightly warmer weather and snow. There was a good half inch layer when I went out to feed the birds and squirrels about 8:30. Thankfully, my cold seems to have mostly cleared - that was fast - and I was feeling energetic enough to go out and shovel the driveway before C got home. I prefer to clear it before he drives on it and packs the snow down. 

Once the snow had fallen, Mother Nature turned mean again, with temperatures falling to -25C (-13F) on Friday. According to the Environment Canada, with the windchill it felt like -38C (-36F). I did venture out just long enough to feed the birds but beyond that it was another stay at home day. These are the days that I am grateful to be retired and able to do just that.

I finished my Christmas letter, and got the few cards I'm sending ready for mailing next week. As well, I pulled the gifts from my closet, checked them against my list. Just a few things to pick up, mostly gift cards for my niece and nephew and the "Santa" gifts for my kids. Sometimes that's socks, sometimes food items - this year food will probably win out. I'm been holding off on the gift cards because the grocery store usually has a deal just before Christmas that provides bonus points when you buy a certain dollar value of gift cards. Something for them, a little something for me.

Some items were finished this week, including a pair of mittens for donation, and the five angels for Eli. I finished a toque for the little guy and the first of a  pair of matching mittens is on the needles. I should be able to finish them this weekend too. These items are being made from some lovely Paint Box yarn I found at Value Village. The original skeins are about $5.50 a piece, and I paid $5.99 for five skeins. I do so like a bargain.

Thankfully, my cold is pretty much over with - it wasn't Covid, I did test just in case. The weather is improving too, just -19C (-2F) this morning, and we're supposed to see a warming trend through the weekend, -4C (25F) is the forecast high for Sunday. It'll be almost t-shirt weather! Just kidding. 

Not much else happening around here. Because I don't watch football/soccer, I've been catching up on PVR'ed television. There will be curling streaming starting on Sunday...I remembered to check the schedule so hopefully I'll catch some of the draws. I've also been working on Ancestry, and I think I'm coming close to the end of the material I can add. However, I purchased a book on Genealogy and have found additional sites for research. I do limit the amount of time I spent on the project, otherwise nothing else would get done around here.

Have a great week ahead everyone. I hope the weather is kind to you, where ever you are.

Saturday 26 November 2022

Preparing for Christmas

D and I took Eli downtown for the street fair last Saturday evening. Our first stop was City Hall where the mayor said a few words, the wreath was lit up, and Santa made a quick visit to hand out candy canes. 

The was a choir too, singing Christmas carols and a small but appreciative crowd. We wandered down the street towards the street hockey. The local Junior A hockey team were out in their jerseys playing a pick-up game against some young kids. Everyone was having a lot of fun.

But before we reached the hockey, we came across a Nativity scene one of the local churches had set up. Two of Eli's friends were dressed up, one as an angel, the other as a shepherd. He was happy to see them, but was even more excited to see the young sheep. He tried to entice them to eat the straw he held out, but they were more intent on the stuff on the ground. No matter, they still got close enough that he was able to give them a pat or two.

We stopped too, at a fire pit that was set up by the firefighters in the street to warm our hands. Then we went to watch the street hockey, and the ball they were using as a puck bounced right near us. I gave the ball to Eli and told him to toss it back on the rink. He seemed to enjoy that, and chased the next couple of balls that came our way.

Although the stores were open, neither D nor I felt like shopping. Instead we headed for the bakery to pick up some treats to have at home. Eli had his regular chocolate dip donut, while D and I chose the gingerbread donuts. I ate half of it when we got back to the house, and oh my, was it good! 

After another restless night, I headed for home just after breakfast. Traffic was light, as I had hoped, and the roads were clear. After I had things put away, I lay down on the couch for a rest and watched a bit of NFL football before the Grey Cup. The championship game was a good one, neither team dominated, and the final outcome wasn't sure until the last 45 seconds of game. The team I was cheering for won...that's always makes a game more enjoyable too.

The rest of my week has been relatively busy (notice I did not say quiet). I got the Christmas decorations up from the basement and set up the tree. I also spent some time in my craft room, sorting and reorganizing. I sent a photo to my daughter saying, "I'm not allowed to buy any more yarn." I have a variety of yarns, with multiple skeins of each, as well as a container that has odds and ends of one or less skeins. It's going to take some time to use it all up.  

I did get a bag of scarves and mitts dropped off at a local charity. There are a half dozen or so scarves and a few toques and mitts ready to go but I'll take those over when I finish a few more. There was a quick trip to Value Village too where I found a jigsaw puzzle with a winter scene on it. AND I didn't buy any more yarn. :)

At stitch and chat I worked on the angels, finishing the third and starting the fourth. There were just two of us again this week. I'm guessing the one lady won't attend again until her friend returns from Arizona. I would like to see more people there but I know it isn't well attended. I'm thinking I might check out a couple other groups that meet on other days and maybe some of those participants would like to join us as well. I do enjoy the chats and it really helps me focus on my project - no distractions from the television or housework that I know needs doing at home.

When I left the stitch and chat, I stopped at the Superstore to pick up some items for Christmas baking. It's time to get going on some of the friend and family favorites.  First up is a Dundee cake and shortbread. The cake is for a friend K, with shortbread for her partner J. I know they're leaving mid-December on a trip so I want to get this to them to enjoy before they get away. The rest of the shortbread won't last until Christmas here as it is one of my son's favorites. 

I was able to watch some curling too, though I'd forgotten until later in the week. It isn't being televised, rather I have to remember to pull it up on the laptop. While watching a draw, I was able to finish the last of the angels, and continue working on a pair of mittens I'd started a week or so ago. The angels need halos - which weren't part of the pattern, the ends need to be weaved in, and hangers attached. I'll get those done this weekend and send them off to D in the mail soon.

Our weather turned on Friday, with temperatures above freezing. Sadly, the wind was a-blowing so it didn't seem all that nice outside. There was a fair amount of melting, which I appreciate. More snow is forecast for Sunday and Monday so I expect I'll be shovelling again in a couple of days. Sigh...

Time to post this and head for the kitchen. I think I'll bake sugar cookies today for decorating later, and maybe an almond biscotti. I know the kitchen floor needs scrubbing so I may as well make more of a mess now before I pull out the mop and pail. The semi-finals of the curling start at 11 a.m. so I'd best get busy.  Have a great week ahead everyone!

P.S. The photo from Wednesday was taken by my son when I was out of town. He heard them out his bedroom window and managed to sneak into the sunroom to get the photo. 

Saturday 19 November 2022

Did I say quiet?

Thank you to all who sent good wishes to my brother R. I'm happy to report he finally tested negative on Wednesday of this week - that's 9 days from his first positive test. He started feeling better on Monday and continued to improve throughout the week. Remember when I said a 1/4 mile walk was a short one for him. On Tuesday, he and Cola (the dog) went walking for an hour.

The cold stuck with us until Wednesday as well, and as it warmed up we had more snow. Not a lot, but enough to cover the driveway and add to the accumulation on the ground. It's a good thing it is warming up slightly as the Grey Cup is being held here this weekend. (It's the Canadian football league's Super Bowl, but less glitzy). Our team is out contention this year - and were since about July! -  and as a result there are a whole lot of folks attempting to offload their tickets to the game. I suspect it will be a poorly attended game, without local support. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers did win their division and it's about a 8 hour drive so that may help with attendance...time will tell. The other team in the game are the Toronto Argonauts which doesn't attract a large amount of fans because they have two other professional sports teams to cheer for.

This first half of the week was pretty quiet, some housework and more crocheting. I finished off this little gnome on Monday. D reminded me she wanted angels for gifts for Eli's teacher and aides, as well as the principal. That meant a trip to the store on Tuesday to pick up some white yarn as I had used the last of it on my reindeer. (I didn't have a lot). So now I have a large ball of it, to make the angels and maybe a snowman or two.

Then on Wednesday I had a call from D. I managed to get her through that day's crisis, however it spilled over into Thursday. By mid-morning I had packed up a few days clothing and other sundry items and was on the highway on the way to her home. I won't get into details, but she hadn't slept for over 36 hours and exhaustion was clouding her thoughts. I spent much of the day cleaning and tidying, while Eli played and she tried to rest. She wasn't able to sleep much - just too overtired - so when dinner was finished she headed up to bed while Eli and I settled in on the couch to watch Home Alone 2. This series is his favorite and this is the second or is the third time we've watched together.

She did get a reasonable amount of sleep over night, thankfully, while I slept with the wiggle worm. There were more stories with spooky endings. I'd start them off and he would finish them. This child and his imagination. On Friday we headed into the next town to deal with the situation that had caused her such grief. It took awhile but I'm pleased to say it ended well and I'm proud of her because she's taken a step forward that seemed so far away not so long ago.

We did a bit of shopping too, stopping at the Dollar store and Walmart. Eli wasn't in a mood for it, so we stopped for lunch between stores and let him play at the McDonalds. I don't blame him, he'd had to sit and wait for quite awhile during D's meeting. While at Walmart we checked for children's Buckley's cough syrup - there was none on the shelf. The clerk told me she'd gotten 18 bottles that morning, and they were already gone by noon.

I tackled a few more household chores when we arrived home, while D headed out to pick up the groceries and check for the mail. She's awaiting her "Moe bucks" check as I've received mine. These are the bribes prosperity pay-outs that our provincial government is providing just ahead of Christmas, instead of reducing or eliminating the increases of 16.8% and 4% to our natural gas and electricity rates respectively. Can you tell I'm not impressed? Over the long run, the rate hikes will cost households more than the benefit of a $500 one-time payment. 

It was a restless night Friday night, as Eli is coming down with another cold. He and I were in the same bed, but at some point Sheldon (the cat) joined us, and the two of them pushed me out of bed. I went downstairs and slept on the couch but was wakened by the sound of coughing. I could hear D talking to Eli, so I grabbed the cough medicine and a spoon. He settled down soon after that, and was in his mother's bed, so I climbed back into his and slept well until early in the morning. Sheldon kept me company.

Today I've sent D upstairs to get a bit more sleep, while Eli and I are snuggled up on the couch to watch some cartoons (him) and work on Ancestry (me). I've got a couple more household chores I want to do today and I'll work on the angels too. One more was finished yesterday. I do plan to head home tomorrow and will leave shortly after breakfast. I suspect the traffic will be heavier as the day goes on as people head to the city for the Grey Cup.

Remind me to never suggest that things in my life are quiet...

Saturday 12 November 2022

Winter plans to stay

My guess is winter is here to stay. The storm that blew in on Sunday left about 8 cms (3 inches) on the ground, and another storm dumped another 7 cms. (2.75 inches) on Monday afternoon. I shovelled both Monday and Tuesday; the photo from wordless Wednesday is the aftermath of my efforts. AND then it got cold! By Thursday morning, I awoke to a temperature of -21C (-6F).  That's more like late January or February temperatures. It didn't warm up much by noon when this screen shot was taken. 

According to the weather forecast we're stuck in this weather for at least two weeks. You know I'll be whining and complaining about it too.

I've bundled up every morning to feed the birds, and the squirrels. One morning I had three squirrels at the feeder and another six Hungarian partridges. The squirrels aren't as afraid of me as I wish they were, and the partridges made me laugh. When I came out of the house, they scooted around the sunroom out of sight. When I'd filled the feeder and back in the sunroom, I looked out to the partridges had raced back to the feeder. Since I know they are around I spread some of the seed on the ground. They do fly, but the feeder isn't set up for that size of a bird.

As a result of the weather I spent most of my time indoors. I didn't go to stitch and chat on Wednesday, but I did get some crocheting done. I'd finished the scarf I was working on earlier in the week, so decided to play with some of the yarn I'd used for the Rudolph. I've finished two of these "cups of hot chocolate", one I plan to keep and the others will be a gift for my brother and his wife. I just need to add the hanger for the tree. I've got another pattern to use a bit more yarn that I'll work on this weekend.

Even though it was cold, I needed groceries so headed on Thursday morning. In addition to regular items, I was picking up supplies for Christmas baking, and the ever needed cat food and bird seed. While it was more than my usual spend, it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. There were some decent sales out there and the fridge, freezer, and pantry are again stocked up. Saku (the cat) and the birds should be happy too.

In other news, my younger brother has Covid. His son K tested positive last week, so I'm pretty certain he passed it on to R. While his wife and daughter have had it previously, R has avoided it until now. We've been texting back and worth this week and he's definitely not feeling well. He told me Thursday that the day prior was a 2 and that day was a 2.5 but at least he wasn't in hospital or at work. They live on an acreage, with horses, a dog (or dogs depending on whether K's dogs are there) and two cats. R has continued to haul hay to feed the horses and take the dogs for walks. Normally he runs, but on Thursday he only managed a 1/4 mile with them. That's how I know for certain he was feeling poorly. He has seen a bit of improvement each day, but it's a slow recovery.

When I haven't been crocheting, I've been working more on Ancestry and I've been in touch with a couple of distant cousins. One of these cousins lives in Quebec, where my paternal grandparents were born and raised. She is the great-great granddaughter of my great-grandfather's brother. It's a community I've always wanted to visit, perhaps one day she and I will meet.

On Friday, I started to watch the Remembrance Day ceremonies being held in Ottawa but made it only 10 minutes in before the host of the show annoyed me. She kept asking what people were thinking about. I'm pretty sure I could have answered for all of them - they were thinking about those who sacrificed their lives or health to fight in the two World wars or other conflicts so that we can enjoy the rights and freedoms they fought so hard to protect. Instead I did some laundry and thought about my uncles, Wilfred and Robinson who went overseas in the WWII. Uncle Wilfred was gassed, broke his legs while Uncle Bob contracted tuberculosis. I knew the story of the two of them ending up in back in Saskatchewan at the same hospital. 

What I didn't know until I found a newspaper article is they were both on the same ship and then hospital train that brought them home from overseas. Wilf had written a couple of letters to Bob, addressing the letter to his last post in Holland, and when they were returned to the hospital, the brothers learned the other was there as well. Uncle Wilf was quoted as saying about his injuries, "All I know is that I was hit by something while on patrol New Year's Eve. I've been told that it was a jeep that got me." He never spoke of the war, so I had no idea how his injuries ocurred.

Today I awoke to another cold day, -20C (-4F). The birds were waiting in the neighbour's tree for me when I went out to feed them, and made short work of the seeds. I don't think the squirrels got any this day. Though the sun is shining, it's another day to stay indoors and stay warm. I've got DVR'ed television to watch, I'm playing on Ancestry, and when I get bored with that I'll start another crochet project or work on Eli's sweater.

Have a great week ahead everyone!

Sunday 6 November 2022

Wild weather

I went out to feed the birds this morning and found the snow had blown and drifted on the deck. I tromped through the snow to the shed, and the snow was over the top of my boots in places.

I hadn't even made it back in the door of the sunroom by the time the birds were at the feeder. I may go out later to give them a second feed.
I took this video through the front window (it's short). Not sure how much snow we got though the local weather website suggests about 3 inches so far. It's blowing so much that the accumulation from last night is drifting in, and it is still snowing. Tonight's forecast is for -17C (1F) so I'm hopeful the snow will stop falling then.

Did you know I can forecast the future? At least I can certainly forecast mine - there's a snow shovel in it!

Saturday 5 November 2022

When life gets exciting - or not

While Halloween was a bit anti-climatic here, someone had a lot of fun! D sent this photo of Eli. The kids were able to wear costumes to school. She sent the little bags she'd made up as gifts for his classmates. Later that evening she and Eli made the rounds of four or five blocks close to their home. Of course, he made out like a bandit. At home they sorted the candy, and about half of it was donated. In years past, she's taken it to the Food Bank, but this year a family she knows had sick kids who weren't able to go out, so she dropped off the bag of candy with them. In exchange for the candy he gave up, he finds a new toy in his bucket the next morning. I'd never heard of this idea until she started doing it with Eli - it's called the Switch Witch. This year it was a pair of Mickey and Minnie Mouse characters dressed in Halloween garb, that she'd picked up last year on sale and stashed until now.

Tuesday was November 1st which meant it was time to pull the fridge and stove out to clean behind them. I try to do them at least twice a year, November and April - I can't say I do them more frequently than that. The area behind the fridge was pretty good, a bit of dried up cat kibble and some cat hair; standard in this house. The stove was a little worse for wear with more cat hair and a dead French fry or two, and of course spills down the side. I scrubbed the appliances and washed the floors before pushing them back in place for another 6 months or more. The kitchen floor was swept and scrubbed too. Since these tasks took less time than expected, I did some extra deep cleaning in the master bathroom. My ensuite has what my kids and I affectionally call the coffin shower. It's narrow and tiled floor to ceiling and while I clean it regularly, I find the floor tiles tend to get cloudy. So down on my hands and knees with a scrub brush and a Mr. Clean eraser I went, looking so much better when I finished.

On Wednesday morning, I watched Canada smash Japan in the first curling draw of the day before heading out to Staples to pick up a new ink cartridge for my printer. Backing up for a second, I'd forgotten my phone charger at D's and was using an older cable. It doesn't charge as quickly so I left the phone at home in the charger. When I drove to where the store used to be it wasn't there. It's obviously been awhile....I had to drive back home to check to see where they had moved. I ran that errand and came home, checked my phone and discovered a Public service alert, a text from my brother, and two missed calls from D.

Apparently, there had been a shooting in her small town; one man was dead and the two suspects were on the run. I tried calling D back and the calls were immediately dropped - so I sent her a message. She called me immediately and informed me it happened at a motel across town from her, the community had been asked to stay home and keep an eye out for anyone or anything suspicious. She had moved her car from the parking pad into the garage in case the suspects were looking for a car to steal. Eli was at school and they were basically on lockdown. By end of the school day, the suspects hadn't yet been located, but danger to the public was considered low as the police believed the shooting was targeted and not random. 

It seems that no place is immune from people who have no or little conscience. I doubt we'll ever know the motive (drug deal gone bad is the thought my brother and I share), but a family lost a member and another family will learn the pain of knowing one of their own took the life of another. Another no win situation.

I did get to stitch and chat that afternoon. There were three of us this week, S, D and I. S is leaving Monday for Arizona, and D wasn't certain she'd attend next week. S gave me the phone number of one of the other ladies who wasn't available this week - she had Covid last week and still isn't feeling well. If she isn't able to make it, neither D nor I will attend. I did tell D if she wants to meet, I can pick her up as she lives close by and I know she normally walks to the library unless it is cold.

Speaking of, we've got rain and snow to start this weekend. According to the forecast we could have as much as 30 cm. (almost 12 inches) of snow over the next week. Temperatures have been dropping and on Thursday we didn't even make it above freezing.  Winter is definitely here and likely to stay, though we can expect a few days of better weather before the end of the month. I've been feeding the birds regularly, and earlier this week I looked out to see them enjoying the bird bath. It had filled up with the snow, and it melted. Don't they look like they're having fun?

Those of you who remarked on the wordless Wednesday, it is indeed a Christmas critter. A Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer to be exact. 

I had time the play with the yarn while I watched the Pan Continental curling championships. Two Canadian teams, one men, one women, are in the event to secure our spot for the World events in 2023. The men didn't have to work too hard because their World curling event will be held in Canada so we have a guaranteed spot. No matter, they lost their first game to the U.S. team and then went on to win the remainder of their games. The women secured their berth early in the event is well with five wins in a row before losing to the U.S. team.

Both teams are in the play-offs this weekend, and I'll watch when I can. I've made plans to meet a friend on this afternoon to check out a craft sale, and catch up. It's been over a year since I met her for coffee so we're long overdue! After that, I plan to hunker down at home and avoid the bad weather as much as I can. There is a scarf on the knitting needles, and a mitten started too. Eli's sweater is still in the basket awaiting attention - in other words, between curling, football, and baseball, I have lots to keep me amused.

Have a great week ahead everyone!