Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Continuing fine.

Yes, another clear and lovely day. It was 0 degrees when I did my walk this morning, but it was so calm and lovely that it didn't matter at all. I have to say, that  since the solar panels went in there haven't been many days like this. I'm hoping for a fully solar shower soon - perhaps tomorrow.

Kitchen renovation continues - not fast, exactly, but steadily. We got home yesterday to find that the carpenter's placed the sink exactly under the window (we said we wanted it offset to the right, so as to have more counter space beside the stove) but no, "it just wouldn't look right". Bugger.  Symmetry strikes again. He said he would change it but I said don't bother.
Also I thought he'd put the oak edging level with the top of the plywood but I think it's just reinforcement for the edge of the counter. We are going to put the Denshield tile backer, which is 1/2 inch thick, and then the tile, which is 3/8, over that. And then the actual edge goes on over that. We are putting the tile on the backsplash too, so we will need to figure out some sort of much smaller edging for that.

Otherwise it's lovely and clean-looking, and square (and quite symmetrical). Looks like there will be a fair bit of storage space. I'm getting a couple of cupboards with doors, but I think a trip to Lee Valley will net me some pull-outs that will make that space useful as well. We have to go there for our hardware, as the Mission-y 'hammered' look is available here in black but not in antique brass. That's for a while from now, but the Denshield has to go on tonight, so we can get to work on the tile soon afterward. Progress!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


     We have been having exceptional weather, with the temperatures much higher than usual for November. But we have also had quite a bit of wind, and this means that the leaves have mostly left the trees, especially in exposed areas. Our linden in the front yard is still in leaf, however, and the glorious yellow-and-gold really brightens up the view.

     We are coming down to it with the kitchen renovation - our carpenter says next Tuesday to start. We have dismantled most of the cupboards, with the sink sitting proudly in the middle. Carpenter says he will finish the dismantling of that if we want. I would like to be able to do it all ourselves! One surprise is that there is no plywood underlay under the base cupboards - they are in the former boys' cloakroom-and-toilet area and were never tiled, I suppose. There is a hole through to the basement where the toilet was removed - covered with a board, but still! 
We will put underlay over it, but I am thinking we should repair the hole first - after all, not all of it will be under the new cupboards, as they are 24 inches wide, not the mammoth 30 inches wide ones we built 35 years ago and are now tearing out. Just one of the things to think about, when we have an evening to work on it!
    We are very excited to be getting cork flooring for the kitchen - we found some at Markan that seems to be just right - a medium colour, easy to put down (it's in floating-floor format) with cork on the top and the bottom so it should be easy on the legs & feet. Now to see if it wears well. It is guaranteed for 25 years (probably Markan will be long gone by then).

     Our solar panels are coming tomorrow, and then the water-heater/plumbing gets done Monday. I am hoping this doesn't mean we're without hot water all weekend. Luckily I'm mostly enjoying the whole camping aspect of our existence at the moment, seeking food in boxes, stashing a minimum number of dishes on the sideboard - and washing them promptly so they can be used again. Of course, we still have the sink and the stove! I am planning to prepare some ready-meals tomorrow and on Sunday, so we can just heat them up. Fred thinks we may have an opportunity to try out Boomburger next week. It's a new restaurant on the shops on the North River Causeway, apparently using locally-sourced ingredients. We shall see!
      I have joined GoodReads, and am having a great time looking up favourite books, and finding out what other materials are available. I found an essay by Diana Wynne Jones about the heroic antecedents of Fire and Hemlock - so I dug it out last night and started to read it again. I can see some of the same influences in the Homeward Bounders, too. A source of fun for quite some time to come.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Remember, Remember

      It's Bonfire Night, and, unusually, it's actually Saturday on November 5th. Our traditional bonfire is getting set to go - I'm in the kitchen, mostly, making fall-ish food like pumpkin torte. I'll help with the firewood soon, though. It's snowing at the moment, but that's no bad thing. People will want to to get warm by the fire. At least it's not raining.
     The truly exciting part is that the roof is only partly done - I think the main shingling is completed, but I am not sure all the caps are on...and there is mess everywhere. I may try to gather up some shingle bits - I could use them on a possible shed, later on. The new soffit vents are not all in yet, either. Obviously another visit on Monday, then.
     The other thing is that the carpenter comes on Monday to start building our new kitchen cabinets. We've had to leave the ones we built - 35 years ago, my goodness! - because of the party, but Sunday, we have to rip them all out so he can get to work.
     I am not entirely sure how we will manage - it's being sink-less that is the worst, as we have the microwave, convection oven and barbecue if necessary - to cook on. But the bathroom sinks are less than useless. I must look for my plastic basin.
      Edited to add: carpenter called to say he is two weeks behind and so won't be coming to ours until November 21. We've packed the kitchen cupboard contents anyway, but now we will have another weekend to dismantle the old cupboards and, I hope, find new locations in the garage for the bits that can be salvaged. Oooh. Storage.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

In honour of Wovember - and Wool

Kate Davies and Felicity Ford have started a campaign to honour the wonder of pure wool - and to try to prevent advertizers from naming things which have NO WOOL at all - or a very little bit (like 5%) as wool. Repeat the mantra: Only wool is wool, and wool comes from sheep.
I have two stories to contribute. I grew up in a knitting home. My mum was a knitter, and so was her mom. They knit very fast - I know that they held their knitting differently than I do, and I know that, had I learned this properly, I would knit more quickly. Be that as it may. It's too late now.
We had (still have) a local woollen mill - MacAuslands - where materials for home knitting were sourced. They also produced (and still produce) the 100% wool blankets we slept under, and under which we - and our children - sleep every night.

In addition to knitting for our family, my mum would knit mittens and socks for her lobster-fisher brothers. They knew the value of the warm-when-wet properties of wool. I remember, as a child, being amazed at the huge size of the mittens she produced for the fishers - and commenting on it. She explained that she was allowing for shrinkage. In a very short time these mittens would be fulled by water - and warm hands, and work - to a windproof, warm, individually fitting, enclosure for hands.
When I was older, I used to go out on the boat - once each spring - to watch the process, and I saw these mittens in action. They would be drenched in salt water - dripping - but would keep hands warm and flexible as they hauled traps, opened doors and pulled lobsters out of the "parlour", and then added pieces of the bait - usually rotten-looking salt herring - to the bait spike. Then the door would be closed, the trap would be lined up with its fellows on the washboard, and, when all was ready, be pushed off again by mittened hands, to lie in wait for the next lot of lobsters. Amazing that all these jobs could be done by hands encased in mittens! And I'll bet that their hands were warmer than they are in the stiff waterproof gloves they use now. 
Mittens were even worn for the more dainty jobs - like "sizing", or measuring the lobsters - the "markets" for the restaurant trade, the "canners" for the factory, and the "Michauds" (named for the Fisheries Minister who brought in minimum lobster size regulations) to be flung back into the ocean for further growth. I don't think the mittens were thick enough to prevent hands from being "nipped" by the lobster's claws. My uncles treated the lobsters with respect for the danger, and held them carefully.
Wool from MacAuslands came in natural colours - off white and light, medium and dark grey. But mittens and socks for fishers had to be white. Grey was bad luck - and when you make your living on the sea, you need all the luck you can get.

My other wool story comes from 2010, on a trip to Ireland in April. We saw sheep everywhere - wild on the hills and roads in Connemara, in fields in Galway, Clare and Cork - with their tiny, beautiful, lively lambs. I wanted so much to photograph them, but discovered that, in Ireland, scenic lookoffs or even places to pull over are few and far between - and rarely do they take account of people wanting to photograph sheep. So I have quite a few blurry photos taken from the moving Mac Dubh (our rental car) and a few shots from when we were walking past a sheep pasture. Then, on our very last day with the car, en route from Galway to Dublin, we saw a pasture with a stopping spot, and I finally got a chance to take my photos. Voila: the sheep and lambs of Ballinasloe.
I did manage to buy some real knitting wool, Donegal tweed, from Ireland, in a shop in Clifden. The ultimate souvenir.
Happy Wovember. Happy knitting with wool.