Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Do

You can't be very vain if you post a picture of yourself with dye on your hair, no make-up on and wrinkles/fat/sausage fingers on glorious and puffy display.
Talk about your full frontal nudity.
This, sisters, is what it's all about.
What we go through to make yourselves, if not beautiful, at least not abominably hideous.
The other day my friend Lynda and I had a skunk competition. 
That's where we have another friend, Leah, look closely at our hairlines to determine who has the most gray roots.
Incredibly, I was not the winner.
Lynda, mortified, ran home crying and drowned her sorrows in the nearest bottle of Ravishing Red with Palest Golden Strands.
(Lynda does have really great hair. She is a stunning strawberry blonde with wide blue eyes and china white, luminous skin. She looks 20 years younger than she does. If she wasn't so damned nice, I'd hate her stinky guts.)
Leah was the judge at this particular skunkfest because she just had her spikes done. Yes, Leah has spikes. This salesman we know, whose idea of a good time is a bunch of smelly old men hunkered down in a hunt shack, makes fun of Leah's hair. 
He's always saying, "Leah, I see that cow was licking your head again." 
He thinks this is very funny.
(Honestly, I do too. Nothing against Leah's hair, because it's gorgeous, but the thought of a cow licking her head paints a picture that pitches me a giggle-fit.)
Anyway, where was I?
Oh yes, the skunk competition.
With Lynda's roots back in the land of the blonde, I was the office skunk.
Not that I personally care.
I can't see them.
Dave, however, is taller than me and it's not uncommon for him to be staring at the top of my head, thinking whether it would be smart to tell me I am venturing into skunk territory.
Today I went to the hairdresser's to get a trim and the barbarette announced, "You got some roots going on there, girl. About an inch of them."
The only reason I didn't deck her is because she called me "girl."
So. Fine. 
I came home, a box of Natural Instincts Hazelnut/Noisette Medium Brown in hand and prepared to do the nasty.
Oh, and it is nasty, isn't it?
Dyeing my hair is right up there with changing the kitty litter.
All that chemical smell and mess and black stains on my face is boogery.
When it drips down my face I look remarkably like Elvis.
In his bloated years.

P.S. Another reason I had to get all dolled up is because, wait for it, I've been DISCOVERED. OMIGAWD... the QUEEN of Muskoka Bloggers is Jenn Jilks ( and she ADDED MY BLOG to her list of other Muskoka blogs. And she WROTE TWO COMMENTS on my blog. And I'm in SUCH a TIZZY. I could die right now a happy woman.
Instead, I'm dyeing right now.
Oh! There's the buzzer. Time to rinse!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tale of Three Pictures

Three pictures.
One photo.
That's the beauty and the inherent danger of Photoshop.
Like so many of today's conveniences, Photoshop has made us lazy. As photographers, we no longer have to concern ourselves with hindrances like exposure and focus. In the old days, we had to worry about stuff like that. Film was unforgiving. The darkroom barely more so. A bad photo, no matter what we did with it, remained a bad photo. Bad photos didn't get published. As a result, photographers who wanted to get paid made it their business to take technically great pictures.
Photoshop doesn't care about any of it.
Out of focus? Unsharp Mask makes it crisp.
Too dark? Levels and curves bring it into the light.
Jaundice faces from stage lighting? Add a blue filter.
No contrast? Use Shadow Highlight and make images appear where almost none existed.
Photoshop is magic, no doubt about it. And hey, I love it. It can make just about any photo better.
What I don't like is how lazy some photographers have become. They just snap away at any old thing without regard to any photographic principles, knowing that some poor sap somewhere is going to have to perform Photoshop mouth-to-mouth to save their complacent arses.
But not only do they not show any regard for technical skill, they also seem to lack any feeling towards the art of photography.
They care little about expression.
Or depth.
Never mind imagination.
I think newspaper photos have suffered in recent years. Photoshop and digital cameras should have made newspapers better, not worse. 
Back in the day of film, photographers had to be skilled professionals with specialized equipment – not like today when any old joe can buy a digital camera for a couple of hundred bucks and pretend they're Karsh. 
In those days, photographers combined technical skills with the desire to take amazing photos: photos that touched our hearts; that made us smile; or cry; or gasp. They weren't Photoshopped. They weren't even in colour. But they were great photos, pure and simple.
Back in journalism school (30 years ago), a photographer from the Toronto Star was a guest lecturer. Something he said stuck with me: "You should never publish a bad photo."
No matter how important the subject of the photo is, if it's not in focus, if it isn't interesting, forget it. Let the story do the work.
On the other hand, it's true that a picture paints a thousand words. With a great photo, you don't need anything other than a simple cutline.
There are photographers who still care about their work. These are the men and women whose walls are lined with awards and who will never find themselves out of a job. I admire them immensely. I wish I was more like them.
I remember being like that. Every time I went out to take a photo I tried to take the best photo possible, better than I had ever taken before. This competition with myself made for some interesting pictures. I look back at them with mixed feelings. Some are silly, for sure. Some are pretty good. All of them display the fire that boiled my blood back then.
These days I am merely a hack. An amateur.
But I still hear the words of that Star photographer, urging me to be the best I can be, no matter what the circumstances.
You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, they say.
So let's make more silk.
And leave the pigskin to Photoshop.

P.S. The photo was taken of a tree in our front yard, frosty with ice from river mist. Lordy, it's been cold lately. Minus 21 C this morning. Colder than a witch's boobie.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tears and Wishes

Every once in a while I have to cry my heart out.
I did that yesterday.
A gut-wrenching, soul-sucking cry; where you can't breathe; where your nose runs and your eyes turn red; where it destroys you for hours afterwards. 
That kind of cry.
It really takes a round out of you. I went to bed last night before 8 o'clock. Slept like a baby. Even so, all day today I felt like I went 10 rounds with a prize-fighter.
A co-worker dropped me an e-mail today and said she wished she was me. I told her to be careful what she wishes for.
She wrote back, "You have everything you could possibly want. A beautiful log cabin beside a river. A great guy who loves you and fixes your car. Two cute kids. What more do you need?"
And I wrote back, "WORLD DOMINATION."
And she wrote back, "I see we have the same goals."
I laughed over that one.
I do have everything I could ever want.
Pretty much.
There are some things I don't have that I wish I had.
I wish my father was still alive.
I wish my mom wouldn't get any older.
I wish my children were with me every day.
The last wish? That's the one I cry over the most.
Who wouldn't?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Men in My Life

Believe it or not, this photo was taken just a few weeks ago, in late November. 
One minute it seemed like autumn would last forever. The next minute, we were buried in four feet of snow.
But that's not what this blog is about. 
Not the weather.
It's about the three most important men in my life: Angus, Sam and Dave.
They get along remarkably well. Most of the time.
It hurts my heart when they don't.
I shouldn't complain. Being a stepfather has got to be one of the world's toughest jobs. (A male equivalent of an evil stepmother.) You can't be too bossy with the kids but you care about them and want them to grow up right. On the other hand you can't let them walk all over you either.
It's a dangerous fence a step-parent sits upon.
To Dave's credit, he does an admirable job. I don't know if I could do as well, if the situation were reversed.
The last four years have been smooth but, as the boys approach their teenage years and hormones combined with a struggle for independence take over, we will have our work cut out for us.
I love those boys. All three of them.
My strongest hope is they get closer as they all get older. 
And become lifelong friends.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sweet treats, sweet memories

Had a fabulous day.
The boys came over for a surprise visit and helped us decorate the tree.  (That's Angus helping out.) Loved going through all the special ornaments you forget you have. When you unwrap each one, you also unwrap memories.
Dave and I also had a chance to bake. I made some gingerbread dough and a batch of thumbprint cookies. Dave made some of his amazing butter tarts. 
Later we went to Lynda and Roger's house for dinner and a rousing game of euchre. The girls kicked arse, naturally, but it was a hard-fought battle where both opponents could have wound up victorious. 
The boys had a good time hanging with Caleb, Liam and Josh. Let me just say, five boys in one house is a whole lot of boys. When there are that many boys, you might as well just rip the toilet seat off and throw it away.
Now it's time to call it a night. The boys are toothbrushed and pajammed and just need to be tucked in and kissed good-night.
That's where I come in.
And that's where I cut out.
Good night, sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I'm Tired

I have Crohn's Disease.
It's not a big deal. I've been in remission for a few years now. Last time I had a colonoscopy there were no symptoms. The disease itself never goes away but it can be controlled, thanks to a very expensive drug called Remicade.
It's been life-changing for me.
Before I started on it, the doctor wanted to remove my colon. 
Wanted me to wear a bag for the rest of my life.
I had tried every drug, from steroids which blew up my face, to methotrexate, which I had to inject into my thighs once a week.
I hated that.
Just the smell of rubbing alcohol now makes me nauseous.
Now, thanks to Remicade, I don't have to worry about any of that.
Every two months I go to Huntsville Hospital's chemotherapy clinic  for a Remicade infusion. I'm usually there for at least three hours. The drug takes two hours to infuse, I get another drug called Solumedrol first, and then there's the whole getting weighed, answering questions, getting the intravenous, all that stuff, to be done.
You know, most of the time, I'm not even aware I have Crohn's, that's how well this drug works.
But every two months, as I did today, I come face to face with the fact I am sick.
The infusion wipes me out. Makes me pale and exhausted.
A few hours later, my heart races, like I've chugged a few Red Bulls.
Tomorrow morning, I will wake up fine. And once again pretend there is nothing wrong me.
This drug costs me than $6,000 per dose. The dosage is based on your weight; the heavier you are, the more it costs.
I am lucky because my drug plan covers it.
But many Remicade patients have been sticking it to the hospital, which is now owed hundreds of thousands of dollars from people who aren't paying for their infusions.
I feel bad for the hospital, because they're suffering in these tough economic times.
I also feel bad for patients who could wind up very ill or dead if they can't afford this drug.
The hospital has just changed its policy, now making all Remicade patients pay up front for their infusions.
I'm going to be OK. I'll just make sure there's room on my credit card, go into the hospital business office on the morning of the infusion, pay for it in advance, then get the infusion. The drug company repays me within a few weeks, my credit rating is happy, and all is right with the world.
What happens to young people who don't have credit cards? Or who do have credit cards without that big a limit? Or whose cards are maxed out?
The hospital says they'll have to "figure something out."
Isn't that nice.
Not only are these people sick, they're also poor.
Is it fair that poor people can't get the treatment they deserve?
Hell no!
I also see the hospital's viewpoint – they can't go on footing the bill forever, like they have been. They're getting screwed, too.
What's the answer?
First of all, the company that makes Remicade should be shot. There's no way this drug is worth six grand per dose. I don't care how many lives it saves – there is no need for such profit margins.
Second, the government should make it easier to people to pay for it. The Trillium Drug Plan will pay for Remicade IF all other treatment options are explored: that usually means steroids, which are the worst drugs I've ever been on, and methotrexate (a cancer drug that makes your hair fall out) and a whole lot of other shit. When you go through all of that, none of which does any good, Trillium will pay for Remicade. 
The system sucks.
On the bright side, the nurses at the chemo clinic are the very best. Jodie, Yvonne and Beth are like angels. They give the best, most gentle intravenous I've ever had. They always ask how I'm doing. They're always funny and sweet, especially to the really sick people I share the room with: cancer patients.
Spending time with these patients and with "the girls," makes me humble. 
Makes me feel guilty that my disease is under control.
Makes me feel lucky.
I see these people at their lowest, but they always show me their strength, their sense of humour, their humility.
I fall in love with them every time I meet them.
Because I'm only in the chemo clinic every two months, things change for the patients with cancer. Sometimes they're still there when I return. Sometimes they're not. Sometimes they're not there because they've gone into remission.
Sometimes they're just not there. And never will be again.
I used to ask about people. 
"Oh, how's Betty doing?"
The nurses would look sad and uncomfortable and say, "Betty passed on." And I would be mortified to have made the nurses say this in front of the other cancer patients.
So I don't ask anymore.
But I think of them. Often. 
With love and sadness and admiration in my heart.

P.S. Thanks for the hug today, Yvonne. Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family and to Jodie and Beth and their families. 
All the very, very best to all of you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Week to Go

Santa Claus greets shoppers in the lobby of the Independent grocery store in Bracebridge.

Only one week until Christmas Eve.
I can't believe it.
I have so much to do. My shopping is pretty much done but I haven't mailed my Christmas cards yet, the tree isn't decorated, the house is messy and I haven't baked a single, solitary thing.
Do I need to do any of it? 
It's not the end of the world if I don't mail cards. The tree has so many lights on it that ornaments wouldn't be missed. And the house... well, I could clean it up tonight and by tomorrow night it would be messy again. So why bother?
As for the baking, well, I'm not sure how I feel about it this year. If  I don't bake anything it will be only the second time in more than 25 years that I haven't. The first time was shortly after my  marriage fell apart and I was living in a little boathouse with no baking equipment to speak of and no need for a bunch of cookies.
I don't know why I haven't this year. Too busy sounds like a cop-out. But I have been busy. There's always so much to do that, when I get home for the night, I just don't feel like making a big mess. 
I also don't have the kids this Christmas. Not in the morning, anyway. They'll be with my ex. 
Dave and I will pick them up Christmas night and they'll spend the night with us, but Christmas is all about Christmas morning, not the night. Not when they're young. 
My ex and I are civil, probably the most civil separated people I know,  and we decided ages ago that we would take turns with the kids at Christmas. Still, it's very difficult when it's not my turn. I'm sure it's hard for him, too. 
No doubt it's hardest on the children. They seem well-adjusted but when there are problems I can't help but blame us. My parents stayed together forever. I never knew what it was like to grow up a child of divorce and I feel sick that my children are forced to endure this.
I didn't choose this.
If I had my way, I would still be married, no matter what. 
He wanted it, not me.
In hindsight, I'm a great deal happier these days. I'm in a serious, wonderful, healthy relationship with a man who loves me and loves the children. He couldn't be a better person nor a better role model. And I think the kids are better for having him in their lives, whether they realize that or not.
Does it matter if I don't make gingerbread cookies this year?
I think it matters.
I want them to grow up with some traditions. I want them to think back to the Christmases when they were little, and their mom made these fabulous gingerbread cookies, painstakingly decorated with bright icing and silver dragees.
I want them to remember helping me decorate them, staining their fingers with food colouring and eating icing until their tummies hurt.
I want them to remember Christmas the way I remember Christmas. 
As magic.
My parents gave me the most magical Christmases any child could ever imagine. I remember being a teenager and staring out my bedroom window, almost sick with anticipation. 
I remember this because there was fresh snow glimmering in the reflection of Christmas lights, and icicles reaching down from the eavestrough, and I sketched the scene in my art book, signed my name and the date, December 17, 1974.
I remember thinking that this date, December 17, only one week until Christmas, was the most amazing date on the entire calendar. And I wondered how I could possibly survive, with all these butterflies buzzing around in my stomach, until Christmas morning.
Because I wrote down the date, I've never forgotten it.
What I have forgotten is that butterflies feeling. That magic. I want to reclaim it. 
I just don't know how.

P.S. Here's my recipe for Gingerbread Cookies. I got it 12 years ago from a woman I worked with in Toronto, who got it from her mother, who clipped it out from a Family Circle magazine dating back to the 1950s. 
It makes the best gingerbread cookies I've ever tasted. The key is using blackstrap molasses, not the fancy pale stuff.
You need three nights to make the cookies.
On the first night you make the dough and refrigerate it.
On the second night you bake. 
On the third night you ice. 
If you're obsessive like me, it might take you longer. The way I ice them, it takes an entire day.
Oh, and the best food colour is the gel that comes in little pots. You can only buy this stuff at a place like Michael's or maybe the Bulk Bin. It's expensive but it lasts forever. I've had mine for years.

Gingerbread Cookies

4 cups sifted all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. ground cloves

½ tsp. ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

In another, larger bowl  combine:

1 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup blackstrap molasses (don’t substitute fancy molasses)

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

Beat shortening with sugar until fluffy; beat in molasses, egg and vanilla.

Stir in flour mixture, 1/3 at a time, to make soft dough. Wrap in foil for four hours or overnight in refrigerator.

Roll dough, ¼ at a time, to 1/8” thickness.

Cut with fancy cookie cutters into holiday shapes.

(Tip: If you roll out the dough onto parchment paper, the cookies are easier to handle. Simply roll out the dough on the paper, cut out a shape and remove the excess dough. Place the parchment paper loaded with cookies onto an ungreased cookie sheet.)

Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes or until firm.

Cool before frosting.

Royal Frosting

(makes 1 ½ cups – two batches may be necessary to ice all cookies in this recipe)

2 freshest possible egg whites*

1 tsp. lemon juice

3 ½ cups icing sugar

Beat egg whites and lemon until foamy. Slowly add icing sugar until frosting holds firm peaks. Cover icing with damp cloth to prevent drying.

For colouring the icing, food colour gels or paste provide the richest, deepest hues. They’re available at specialty baking supply stores.

Separate a few spoonfuls of white icing into small bowls; colour them and use a small knife, spreader or spatula to cover the cookies with a nice, solid layer of icing – not too thin and not too thick! Decorate with silver dragees or sprinkles. Allow to dry overnight before storing cookies in an airtight container.

Cookies will keep well up to a month.

*It’s extremely important to use fresh eggs for the icing because of the danger of food poisoning. If in doubt, use meringue powder and follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Angus and Sam decorate gingerbread cookies last year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Cat Looks Like I Feel

Ben the cat is slung over the back of the couch, his front leg hanging down one side, his tail hanging down the other, his eyes like slits.
He's about 3 feet away from the woodstove, which is cooking me like a cheap steak.
Hang on while I go over to the thermometer and see what the temperature is in here...
... OK, I'm back.
It's 88 degrees Fahrenheit. 
I don't know what that is in Celsius because the thermometer only has F. 
Wait, I do know what 88 degrees F is.
And it's what, down to about zero degrees F outside?
Inside, it's the ever-loving Bahamas.

I took this photo of the Muskoka River outside, where winter lives.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Potato Salad

Mom makes the best potato salad in the world.
I'm not just saying that, it's true.
If you don't believe me, ask my cousin who proclaimed it so at last summer's family reunion.
"Aunt Dot, you make the BEST potato salad in the world!"
See, what'd I tell you?
But the old potato salad ain't what she used to be. Not since they stopped making Bojac Salad Dressing. Do you remember this stuff? It was a glutinous mass the consistency of tough jello, but it tasted SO good. My mom put it in devilled eggs, chicken salad, tuna, salmon, lettuce sandwiches (my favourite: Wonderbread, Bojac, one Kraft single, loads of iceberg lettuce cut thin and crunchy, more Bojac, yummmmm), and, of course, potato salad. 
Not everyone knew about Bojac (which I guess is why it went out of business) but everyone, and I mean everyone, who tasted Mom's potato salad proclaimed it was (here we go again) the BEST in the world!
When Bojac went out of business (this happened like 25 years ago), Mom's reputation suffered. Her salad was no longer unique. She experimented with other mayonnaise but nothing had the same zip as Bojac. She sank into a deep depression, started using heroin, sold my brother for a cheap fix and started whoring on Jarvis Street. After years of skank and leather, she finally settled down and resigned herself to Miracle Whip. 
It's ok.
You know, barely.
Better than Hellman's, that's for sure, or the no-name crap.
Mom does her best with it, though. Gotta give her credit. And, I'm proud to say, she has kicked the Bojac habit. Now, when you ask her about it, she has blanked out the Bojac years. Post-traumatic stress, I say.
"Bojac?" she says, distantly. "It wasn't that great. I like Miracle Whip just as well."
Sad, isn't it?
For years,  I tried to emulate Mom's potato salad and I think I got fairly good at it. Here's the lowdown: 
Mash the potatoes when they're hot and mash 'em until they're smooth.
Add tons of Miracle Whip.
Add lots of chopped green onion and radish. Cut some eggs on top for decoration. Sprinkle with mandatory cupboard-brown paprika. Refrigerate until it's cold.
The smoothness of the Mom's salad is what makes it so great. There are two types of potato salad lovers: the smooth and the chunky. It's like peanut butter, isn't it? 
I've always been a smoothy.
Until last winter when I went to a dance at the Sundridge Legion to hear world class songbird Tina Turley (who I just happen to work with and adore but don't stalk at all because that would be totally uncool) sing her little heart out. She was great, yada, yada, yada, but she was no match for the potato salad they served for the midnight lunch.
Oh, mother of god, it was so choice!
Chunky! Flavourful! Full of chopped egg! And chopped celery! And celery seed! 
I swooned!
Dave, who wasn't hungry at the time, said, "How can you even eat?" And I tried to tell him how GOOD it was, that it was the BEST IN THE WORLD, honest to god, but he had a stinky look on his face so I just had a ladylike blob on my plate and treated him resentfully for the next week and a half.
I could have eaten the entire bowl!!!
Ever since then, I have tried to copy the Legion potato salad recipe. 
To no avail.
I began to get a reputation as being the worst potato salad maker in the world.
I persevered.
Finally, a month or so ago, I think I came close. Here's the recipe:
Use yellow-fleshed potatoes.
Mash ROUGHLY when they're still hot.
Use LOTS of hard boiled eggs, cut chunky.
Chop lots of celery and green onion into medium size bits.
Use LOTS of Miracle Whip, celery seed, Mott's caesar rimmer spice, seasoned salt and freshly ground pepper. Chill and then pig out!
I made some tonight for a pot luck we're having at work tomorrow. 
I know, it looks like vomit on a stick, but it's really kind of delish.

P.S. I really love my mom. Not only is she the nicest, most ladylike, honest, caring (she used to hold my hair off my forehead when I threw up) person I know, she also makes really, really good Christmas pudding. 
And she looks great in leather.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I Feel Like Chicken Tonight, Like Chicken Tonight!

If you're going to pull someone out of a snowbank, try to make sure it's someone who works at your favourite restaurant.
I mean, I totally hit the jackpot tonight! And I didn't even do any towing!
Here's the scoop: it was 8:30 p.m. and I hadn't taken a photo yet for this blog. I thought about cheating... yesterday I took 26 photos, surely I could pretend I took one of them today??? If I hadn't watched a movie on HBO tonight called Cheaters, all about a high school academic team that cheated, and been infused with a fresh infusion of Libra guilt (you know, cheaters never prosper, blah, blah, blah...) then I might have posted an old photo.
But if I had of done that, me and Dave wouldn't have jumped in the Jibberty (it's what we call our Jeep Liberty  after I mixed up my consonants one day) and gone out to find a blog photo. 
And find one we did. A nice one, if I do say so myself, and of course I do... it's the Matthiasville hydro-electric plant (pictured above), lit up like a movie set.
That's not the best part, though. The best part has to do with chicken! The possibility of chicken! Oh, the chicken, the poulet, the taste-like-chicken chicken of it all!
The best part was finding Diane and her Civic stuck in a pile of snow. 
We decided to pull her out with our Jibberty because we're nice people.
We help other people.
Any kind of people.
Even people who don't work for Swiss Chalet.
But while Dave was trotting down the road to get a tow rope, I chatted up the damsel in distress only to find out she works for Chalet Suisse.
"No way!" I say to her with genuine enthusiasm. "That is our FAVOURITE restaurant!"
"Is that right?" she says.
"Oh, YES!" I gush. "We go there ALL the time. It was the first place we went to on Saturday when they cleared the road! We just LOVE Swiss Chalet!"
"Isn't that interesting," she says, light beginning to dawn on our poor, stuck sweetie.
The thought was planted. The groundwork was done.
Surely she would connect our love for poulet with our grand and glorious deed pulling her from the snowbank on a cold, dark night.
We are, after all, heroes! 
Heroic heroes!
We are her knights in shining armour!
Surely there will be a gift certificate for Swiss Chalet in our mailbox tomorrow!
"Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya! Tomorrow! The poulet's a day away!!!!"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Face in the Tree

This is the face that lives in the tree.
A benevolent fellow, agreeable, good-humoured and a trifle stout. He's always got a smile on his face; except not right now because Dave pointed the snowblower his way and he's a lot like Highway 11: snow-covered and slippery.
"I didn't mean to get the face," Dave says.
He likes the face. "It's like the tree's looking at ya."
Sam doesn't like the face, for exactly the same reason.
He walks by it gingerly, keeping an eye on it as he goes by. The tree watches him pass. Like the Mona Lisa. A demonic Mona Lisa.
Sam is afraid of many things. Our house. The bathroom when  no one else is in the house. Scary movies. Soap.
His brother Angus is afraid of nothing. Or so he says. I've noticed he is afraid of being in the bunkie alone, being in the house alone, going down to the basement alone and waiting in the car alone. Other than that, he's not afraid of anything.
Both boys want to play mature-rated video games. Angus wants a zombie game for Christmas. "It's not scary," he insists. "
A couple weeks ago we watched A Haunting in Connecticut. It had zombies in it. Just like the video game they want. Sam couldn't tell you much about it – he viewed it through the back of a pillow. 
Angus was ticked about Sam's scaredy-cat behaviour.
"Sam! It's not that scary! You're being a weeney!" 
This from the boy who has slept with a nightlight on since he was three.
I like the tree.
I think the tree likes me.
And as long as I'm nice to it, it won't kill me in my sleep.

P.S. Here's a few snow photos from today. 

Dave posted his hat on a shovel because the balmy temperatures combined with his hard work made him a little on the sweaty side. He was outside for most of the day shovelling and blowing snow. Fun? Wow.
Our road. At least I think it's our road. Kinda hard to tell all buried in snow like that.

The trees in front of our house are so big I can't take a photo of them in their entirety. They're probably at least 100 years old.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Oh What A Beautiful Morning

The plow came through this morning! Finally! I did a little happy dance when the l0ader went by at 8:07. I was beginning to think our road would never be plowed.
It's been an incredible few days, to say the least.
I have never seen so much snow fall in such a short time in my entire life.
Everyone's been saying the same thing.
Tim, who we just met this morning while we were out for a walk, was downright ebullient when he stopped his four-by-four, wound down his window and grinned wider than any country mile. A shit-eating grin, I think they call it.
"I've lived here since 1969," he said, "and I've NEVER seen snow like this!"
We grinned right back at him, because, well, you just can't help yourself. 
We've lived here since September but we hadn't really met many neighbours until the storm. Since then we've met pretty near all of them. Even the guy behind us who I met for the first time in my underwear. Well, I was in my underwear, not him.
I was playing on the computer, sitting around in my underwear and nightshirt because it's like 400 degrees in here with the woodstove roaring. I figured it must be Dave, who was out in the garage doing something, and he had his hands full and wanted me to open the door.
Something told me to grab the blanket on the back of the chair, and I'm glad I did, because there was a stranger at the front door.
I kinda hid and opened the door a crack and blushed furiously.
He had the good graces to blush back.
"Hi!" he says.
"Hi," I reply, thinking, who the heck is this guy? He's not dressed well enough to be a Jehovah's Witness.
"Nice weather, we're having, eh?"
I can't believe we're sharing niceties with me in my gotchies. 
Finally I blurt out, "Are you looking for Dave?"
"Yeah," he says, happy to be given an out. "He in the garage?" 
I would have told him he was out having an audience with the Pope if I thought he'd leave me to my computer and my underwear.
Nice people, though, everyone we've met.
It's been a cosy couple of days, keeping the fire stoked, cleaning out the driveway, measuring the snowfall (we figure at least 4 feet), talking to friends on the phone who are wondering how we're doing.
It's been fun, for sure.
But I can't tell you how nice it is to see the sun.

P.S. If you double-click on the photos, you'll see the high-resolution version. (I'm a Mac user so I double-click everything. If you're on a PC, you might only need one)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Snow Day!

Add ImageOffice was closed. Dave's work closed. Emergency declared by local government. Highway 11 closed between Bracebridge and Huntsville.
It's 4:12 as I write this and whatever daylight we had today is waning. The snow is about up to my armpits outside. Dave is shovelling the roof. I'm taking my coffee outside to watch. 
Who knew snow shovelling was a spectator sport? 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Colorado Low

"Oh, it's an Alberta Clipper coming, honey!"
Dave says this with a southern accent.
Don't ask me why.
Every time we hear the words Alberta Clipper on the news, Dave and I chuckle. 
Don't ask me that either. 
It's just funny.
Well, we've been doing a lot of chuckling today, but not over the Clipper. This time it's a Colorado Low.
"A Col-or-add-oh Lowwww, honey, it's a-coming!"
And coming. And coming.. and still coming.
We've had three feet of snow today. And it's still coming. About two inches every hour.
It was snowing at 7:47 a.m. when I went out to start the car and took the picture of the tree beside the river. 
It was snowing at work, all day long. My boss, also named Dave, shovelled the walk on and off all day long. We all took photos of him. We took photos of each other cleaning off our cars. We took photos of each other taking photos. We laughed a lot. 
And it kept snowing.
My short drive home was a white-knuckle affair. White-outs all the way. Cars in ditches.
Our road wasn't plowed  and my Neon plowed through it, snow blowing up over the hood. It was like a dog rooting through snow with its snout.
When I got to our driveway, I had to gun it so it wouldn't get stuck, but get stuck it did, burying itself up to the hood.
I didn't even try to get it out.
I just pushed open the door and stepped out into snow almost up to my hip. 
Waddled up to the front door, laden with purse and keys and camera. Opened the door to let the dog out. Dog looks at me like I'm a bug. Dog comes out, pees in the footprint closest to the front door, goes back in the house again. Shakes off snow then snorts derisively as if to say, "I am so not going to do that again."
The funniest thing about this Colorado Low, is that it's mostly just hitting Bracebridge.
In Sprucedale? No snow.
In Huntsville? No snow to speak of.
In Haliburton? A little bit.
In Bracebridge? The floodgates of hell opened up and buried local sinners in a kiss that's as cold and white and sloppy as a three-day-old corpse.

P.S. You want to know the most interesting thing about all this?
They're calling for another 30-60 cm of snow tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside

The first snowstorm of the winter season. Much feared and anticipated, it was a bit of a lunchbag letdown, in spite of the breathless-with-enthusiasm forecast by the suits on the weather channel.
I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of the wind, rattling and moaning in the trees around us, all bluff and bluster, like the wolf to our Red Riding Hood. All its huffing and puffing was to naught. The cats and dog and Dave and I were snug in our beds and the wind would not have its way with us, not on this night.
There is something comfortable about sleeping in an old house. If nothing has knocked it down over decades of thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards, there's a pretty good chance nothing will in the next day or so. 
(Knock on wood.)
When we bought our cabin on the river we were told it was "historic" but we had no clue about its real age. We figured that maybe it was built in the 1930s or 40s. So when we received a statement from the taxman, we were startled to see the date it was built.
Isn't that incredible?
From what we've heard, Bracebridge wasn't settled until the 1860s. Which means our small cabin was probably among the first in the area. Likely a trapper's shack or a logger's home, but I'm just guessing. When I get a chance, I want to go to the land registry office and find out more.
That bit of detective work will have to wait, however, until I get a day off when the office is actually open. 
In the meantime, I daydream about who has lived in this house in the last 129 years.
Dave and I count ourselves lucky to be among them.

I've decided to try and take a different photo of the neighbourhood every day, as an exercise in both weather-watching and photography. Today's photo was taken by Dave in the morning. He's been home with a back injury, so he was able to take it when I was still at work. The wind and snow were just howling when he wandered out for a look around and photographed the Black Bridge. When we first saw this house last spring we fell for it. Hard. And this bridge was the first thing we fell in love with. I remember we drove around a corner and saw this magnificent old bridge and we both sighed with pure and simple longing. On maps it is called the Black Bridge and, even in the throes of the first snowstorm of this winter season, it stands tall, dark and handsome.

P.S. Thank you, Paula, for your comments. I miss you, too, and I wonder how you're getting your euchre fix. I think of your quick to-the-roots blush, and your no-holds laugh and your sharkiness around the euchre table. And I'm wondering how you're enjoying your Oriental salad and your Coke, and if you and Pamela have somehow skinnivered a game... maybe with Brent and Tamara? I know, skinnivered isn't a word. That's why I put it in here! Happy proofreading, Blondie! Say hi to everyone.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tippy, The Best Dog Ever

Someone should tell Angus that there isn't any money in being a writer.
Oh, there might be money in it if you're Stephen King, but not if you're me. Not a lot, anyway. My first newspaper job paid $75 a week and I had to have a place to live and a car (that worked). By the time I paid my car loan and the rent I barely had any left over for drinks at the hotel. Truth be told, sometimes I spent all $75 at the bar. (Having a roof over your head when you're 21 is overrated.)
I remember my journalism teacher (Ben Rose was his name) telling me, "There's no money in community journalism. Everybody who thinks they're going to get rich on this had better leave now."
I remember my father asking (as he pulled out his wallet), "when are you going to get a real job?"
There may not be money in writing but, by gosh, there's pride. It's not like being a Wal-mart greeter, although there's nothing wrong with being a Wal-mart greeter – they get paid the same as reporters, they don't have to have a car and they get free uniform. Oh, please tell me it's free. It would be inhumane to make employees pay for that crap.
There's a certain cache to writing. When people at a cocktail party ask what you do for a living, you can say, "I'm a reporter." You know, say it all casual-like. Like you'd say when someone complimented your dress. "Oh, THIS old thing?" And you watch their eyes light up, suitably impressed.
Now that I'm not a reporter anymore, I don't get that same reaction.  I say, "I work in the production department of a newspaper," and they don't have a clue what the hell I'm talking about. They go all blank and nod politely and move on to the next person. They must think it's a factory or something. If I say, "I do ads," they think I'm in sales. If I say, "I'm a graphic designer," it sounds like I have a big head. No matter what I say, it's not half as cool as saying, "I'm a reporter." Or "I'm a writer." Saying the latter is like you're starring in a Nora Ephron movie. Or hanging out with Woody Allen. Which I would never do, even if he asked me, because he married his daughter. 
Weirdo freak. 
He's not even funny.
But I digress. 
What I really want to say is that I have always been proud of my writing background and I have wondered if either of my two sons would take after their mother. I was rewarded richly tonight when Angus announced he had started a blog. A blog! 
His topic is Tippy, his faithul pooch, who is not really an oaf. (OK, so she is a bit of an oaf. I'm sorry, Angus, she just is!!!)
 I read everything he had written and laughed and smiled and beamed with pride! What an amazing son I have! I wanted to be the first to comment and be a follower but, alas, I couldn't figure out how to do it. (I'm sure that's why I have no comments on my blogs... no one could figure it out, right???? Right???? Anybody out there???? Hellllllllllloooooooooooooooo??? This would never happen to Julie & Julia but I guess she was saying something interesting. And I'm... not so much.
Anyway, if you ARE reading this, you must go to my son's website and admire his blog. Here's the website:
He is a very talented child.
Just like his mother.

The photo features Angus and the inukshuk he made at Inverhuron Provincial Park last summer.

P.S. I have to start taking photos every day. This morning on the way to work the view along the river was so beautiful that I stopped the car in the middle of the road and just stared. The trees were laden with fresh snow, the river steamed and the sun's first light painted the tops of the evergreens with gold. I wish I had my camera. The first blizzard of winter is called for tomorrow. My kids are excited about a snow day. I'm just hoping that Dave and all family and friends get to work without incident. There's an excitement about the first bad storm of winter. Bring it on, I say. Our riverside cabin is warm and cozy and wonderful. Let it snow!