Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

The first year we were here, I prepared for Halloween as if we still lived in town. I made a huge (8 foot) spiderweb near the door with yarn and put a big construction paper spider in it. All the boys were at home and they each had a pumpkin that they had carved. Those were lit and set on the back step. I had purchased loads of candy to hand out too and then waited for the kids to show up. None did. Our place is about half a mile outside the village. With nothing but fields between us and the village and no street lights it just isn't worth any little ghosts coming out here on the trick or treat rounds.

Our village always hosts a very nice Halloween party every year. Each child in the village is invited and they all attend, from pre-school toddlers to kids who hope that nobody asks them if they're not just a bit too old for this. They have party games, costume judging and carved pumpkin (and turnip) judging. We won the carved pumpkin contest one year with this effort. After the party, the littlest ones go home and the rest go on the trick or treat rounds.

Parents take it in turn to go with the children and see that they are safe and don't get up to mischief. In past few years I've taken George and Gordon down to the village with the candy I purchased for the house and handed it out in the village hall.

On Sunday when I was in town, I phoned the house and asked George if he wanted me to pick up a big pumpkin for him to carve. He said that he couldn't be bothered about pumpkins anymore. At 14 he is probably too old to go out trick or treating with the rest of the children so that is that.

I'll still have candy on hand to give out on the off chance that we get a stray visitor. I'll keep all the outside lights on so the place looks welcoming but that's as far as I'll go now.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Blog Light

I've been thinking about what I put on this blog. I may have mentioned once before that in real life, I am much um . . . earthier in my language. I don't put swear words into my blog because I don't want to offend my primary audience and that is my family. Now, most of my family know that I can swear like a sailor but for some reason, I never swear in front of small children, aunts and uncles or my dad. My dad doesn't have a computer so every so often, I print out each recent blog entry, bundle them up into a nice thick envelope and post them off to him. He reads the pages with his old pal Lee over coffee and pie in some nice coffee shop. I'd hate to think that what he was reading shocked him so much that his coffee goes up his nose or choked on a bite of cinnamon roll. I know that my dad knows how to swear, but he has never used bad language in front of me.

I keep away from sticky topics like religion and politics. I go to Mass most Sundays but I do not go as regularly as some. I have very left wing views on politics to the point of almost being socialist. As I know that not everybody shares these views or beliefs, I keep them to myself unless asked.

I also steer way clear of writing about relationships. Thankfully most relationships in my life are pretty smooth. For those relationships that are less than smooth, it wouldn't be fair to air their unreasonable behaviour ;-) in public if they don't have a way to respond. I don't write about my husband or my children unless they have given their specific permission. All of my boys are great guys but as most kids go, sometimes you just want to throttle them. Writing about family squabbles may prolong the squabble and more importantly, record the upset for all time. As you all know, the faster you forget that sort of stuff, the better. It is in these instances that a good memory is unforgivable.

I won't get on a soap box and talk about the loss of civil liberties, stupid politicians and overpriced health care. There are plenty of other blogs that expound on those topics. I'm just going to blog light. It is probably going to bland me out a bit but I'm okay with that.

I'll write about the positive things in my life, the things that make me smile. I will make typical middle aged posts about the loss of my youth and the dreams that passed me by. For instance, I will not now ever be in a rock band or get a PhD in marine biology. I've made an uneasy peace with those bits of wishful thinking. I will write about my garden and the wildlife in it, taking very good care not to photograph the areas where the weeds have taken over. I will document bits of family history and the rise and fall of my chickens' egg production (another egg today by the way) and baking stuff.

You guys KNOW that I'm really not bland in real life, right?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

First Egg!!

The hens that I bought at the end of last month have given me their first egg today! Well done gals! Lets hope that this egg is the first in a torrent of eggs! As it is the first effort for one of the new hens, it is small. I have taken a photo of the egg for everybody to see and then one next to a large egg so you can compare sizes.
Most commercial egg producers will only keep a hen for one laying season. A hen will go into a moult (dropping feathers and growing new ones) and then her next laying season will start. Hens will lay fewer eggs in the next season but they'll be larger. Commercial operations will change to fresh hens at this point. I like the larger eggs (and I'm not a commercial egg producer) and I'll keep a hen until she dies of old age. Hybrid hens will be good enough layers their entire lives for our purposes.

I've been uber-busy with work this week, coming down with some sort of stomach-hurts-fever bug on Thursday night didn't help. Why does this sort of stuff always happen towards the end of a month? Stoical me just took something to keep the fever down, and went to work. In case you're worried. It has passed.

I've been going around the house today doing those annoying jobs that I always say I'll get done "sometime", but never actually do. This included touching up paint in rooms that have been painted for some time now, changing all the light bulbs in the outside lights that went out in the summer and getting family photos put on the walls. I feel so virtuous when I do that sort of stuff. I can relax better when odd jobs have been finished and crossed off the to-do list. Next up: defrost the freezer :-(

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fun Dementor

When I fail to fulfill requests by the resident teenager, I am called The Fun Dementor. They claim that I suck fun out of any room I'm in, making them feel like they'll never have fun ever again.
After making waffles for everybody this morning and then spending the rest of the morning cleaning, I wasn't really in the mood to say yes when George and his faithful sidekick Gordon asked if they could make cookie dough.

Now, any parent with their wits about them will know that if they wanted to "make cookies" then that's what they would have asked. No, they asked if they could make cookie dough. That meant that they'd sit on the sofa, playing on the X-box and eating the raw dough, leaving the kitchen upside down. I just spent AGES getting the kitchen clean. Naturally they promised that they would clean up afterwards but I just couldn't face what would happen to my nice clean kitchen if I let them in there. I was called a Fun Dementor. Then guilt set in. . . .
I went in myself and made chocolate chip cookie dough. I can be much tidier. After the cookie dough was made, I got out the kitchen scales and weighed out 5 oz of cookie dough into two cereal bowls. I presented the bowls of dough to the boys on the sofa. I then I thought I'd use the remaining dough to actually make chocolate chip cookies. While the cookies were baking, I came into the office to write.
Because I wasn't paying attention to the time, I let all the cookies burn. There isn't a single one that is salvageable. They are all completely carbonized. Fun dementors will do that sort of thing. They will fail at doing fun things even when they try. Such is the nature of a fun dementor.
The chickens will be happy because they'll get them all.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

You Missed a Bit!

Now that the bookcases are out of the hallway, we've got LOADS more space to walk. The bookcases also hid the fact that the hallway was in desperate need of a new coat of paint. Until yesterday, the hall had been a lovely dark red. Now it is becoming a light yellow. Naturally this will take two or more coats to cover the old dark colour.

After filling all the nail holes, going around everything with masking tape and covering the floor, I started painting. The stereo is too far away for anybody painting in the hallway to get any benefit from it. The radio was in use in another part of the house, so I thought I'd turn on the tv to a music station and listen to that while I painted. The channel I ended up turning to was of all things the Kerrang channel. It was excellent! Who knew I hadn't outgrown my affinity for a bit of metal. Rock!

Later on that evening, I discovered my husband playing Prince's Purple Rain album. Funky!

There is nothing like a bit of good music to help slap the paint up on the walls. I've put in a Nickleback video instead of a Prince video. Prince won't allow any of his stuff on YouTube.

It also helps if you've got a quality control cat.

(Spot the old colour in the lower left hand corner of the top picture.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Opting Out

I was in a garden centre in September and the day I was in, they were putting out their Christmas decorations. I started to feel just a little bit smug and thought to myself, "This has nothing to do with me this year." The day before this garden centre visit, I booked a diving holiday in Egypt for the three of us.

We'll be leaving on the 18th of December and will return on the 26th. Yes, we're going to be away for Christmas. I don't want anybody to think that we're not celebrating Christmas this year, we're just celebrating in an unusual way.

There are a couple of reasons why we're going to celebrate Christmas by going diving. Henry and I have come to diving later in life than most divers do. We have a limited amount of time to enjoy the sport so we like to grasp the opportunity when we can. Once you've been forced to stop diving by age and infirmity, you can't go back. If we continue to enjoy good health, Henry has about 10 years of diving left in him. After this happens, we don't want to look back with regret at not grasping each and every opportunity to dive.

The other thing is the vulgar commercialism of Christmas. If one considers how much is spent on food, drink, tree, decorations, lights for the house, Christmas cards and presents, it all adds up to the cost of a nice holiday in the sun.
Photograph of a Regal Angel fish that I took in July 2006 in the Red Sea.
We've never been able to leave the house in the winter before now. In the past we had a heating system that was run by a coal fire in the stove. The stove or range heated the boiler and that warmed six radiators and the domestic hot water. If we weren't here to keep the fire going, then the house got cold pretty quickly. If we left the house for a few days, it took AGES for the house to heat back up again and there was always the worry of burst water pipes. But since last year, we have a proper central heating system with thermostats and a nice big Belgian oil burning furnace.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Dewey Decimal System Comes to Whitelees Cottage

I finished painting what will now be called the guest bedroom.

This afternoon while I was waiting for some bit of paint to dry, I thought I'd start moving the books. The first bookcase. It's looking sparse, but dust free. It will be joined by other bookcases and naturally, the books quite soon.
I was going to have to empty the bookshelves to move them and had the bright idea of finally organising the family book collection into proper order. I will probably never have this opportunity again. Once organised, finding a book later on will be SO much easier. When stacking the books in the last empty room in the house, I sorted them into distinct categories among the piles I made were the categories of Fiction, Travel & Foreign Language, Music and Field Guides. You get the picture.

Most of these books haven't been moved in a decade and were filthy! I was covered in dust. I still have about ten or so boxes of books up in the attic to be brought down and sorted. I'll get to that today after church. Then I can make a pot of tea and start sorting the fiction by author and the non-fiction into its different subjects.

This is the non-fiction pile - Future categories will be humour, politics (no they're NOT the same) biography and reference books (dictionaries and the like).

Fiction - Not yet sorted by author.

Travel and foreign language. This includes travel writing and maps.

Another pile of books that I didn't photograph is for music, which will probably take over an entire bookcase. Last but not least at all are the Rupert and The Broons and Oor Wullie annuals. They are tall books and as they have been collected off and on for over 50 years, take up a lot of space.

These guys were very helpful all day. Here Polly and Julio are ensuring that the fire in the stove stays at the optimum level.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Paint Specks

I don't like the little specks of paint that one finds on furniture after a room has been painted. The Man of the Place hates them even more. The reason for his hatred of paint specks goes deep. When he was growing up, just about every stick of furniture that his parents owned had paint specks on it. His parents were lovely but not careful about covering furniture when painting, thinking that being careful with the brush or roller would be enough.
Old paint spatters. Can you see them?

Last weekend, I had the honour of removing some ancient parental paint specks from a piece of furniture that we've pulled out of storage. This small wardrobe used to belong to my late father-in-law. It is typical of English post WWII furniture. It will go into the room I am painting just now along with all our bookshelves. I used fine steel wool and paste style wax polish and got almost all the paint specks off. There is one side left to do, and I'll get to it this weekend sometime. When I finished working on it last weekend, The Man of the Place exclaimed that he didn't even know that it had brass knobs and hinges. He thought they were always black.

This week after work and after dinner each night, I have spent an hour or two painting the room that used to be George's bedroom. It took a couple of days to get the ceiling painted. It was blue and the matt white that is a more traditional coating for ceilings needed the application of two good coats before the blue didn't peek through anymore.

Naturally before a single tin of paint is opened, the room must be prepared. I removed all but the heavy sofa bed and then started in with the masking tape. All the skirting boards (in the US they are base boards) needed to be topped off with masking tape and the window sills covered with newspaper and tape. I didn't remove the light and plug plates, but I did loosen all the screws and used lots of masking tape to protect them all from the dreaded paint spatters.
The entire floor has been covered in two huge plastic sheets. I know that if I didn't do this, I'd step in a paint drip and then track it unknowingly all over the house.
The colour is called Pebble Beach. It is a nice neutral stone colour. You can see that when I've painted the walls, I've left a two inch gap all the way around the top. This is so the edges can be done by somebody else who is much more skilled and careful (NOT fussy) than I am about edges.

After this blog entry is finished, I will be removing the radiator and painting behind that as well. While the radiator is off, it will be getting some much needed maintenance and a new coat or two of paint.
That's my life. Work. Clean the house. Paint stuff.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

We are the Champions!

Our friends Kevin and Pam are visiting us. They, George and The Man of the Place are going to the Darvel Music Festival tonight. As Kevin and Pam live all the way down in Cirencester they have come up early to visit us.

Last night there was a Quiz Night being held in our village hall so we all walked down to the village hall to participate. We live about half a mile from our village hall. As we had all had wine with our dinner, walking was the only legal option.

It was a mild night and the walk down was very pleasant. Kevin and Pam, were quite stalwart and didn't ask us why we weren't bringing torches (flashlights). Frankly, you really don't need the extra light. There aren't any streetlights and after about thirty seconds, your eyes get used to things and you can see the road just fine.

I've made the walk to and from our house at night to the village many times and I've never been afraid. Aside from tales of "large cats" on the loose, there isn't anything out there that might want to eat an adult human. Nobody walks that way, so robbery isn't going to take place. On top of that, most of the potholes have been filled in, so the tripping hazards have been minimised.

So, long story made short. Village quiz night. Team of five - Me, Henry, Kevin, Pam and Michael (stray villager looking for a team). We won. Convincingly.
We can barely move here this morning for the smugness that has filled the place.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Autumn Days

I drove out to Lanark today in the Clyde valley. It was a glorious sunny autumn day. On one of the far hills, somebody was burning off some old thick heather. The smoke rose straight skyward on this windless day. It gave a lovely smokey smell to the afternoon.
(The above photo of the red deer stag is not my photograph.)

One of the places I drive past are some holiday cottages and visitor centre for Clan Carmichael. They keep red deer in huge pens next to the road. This time of year the bucks are in their glory. Big antlers and thickened necks these boys are making lots of noise because they're in the mood for love. One big lad was right next to the road. I slowed down to admire him better. What a beauty!

Sometimes the beauty of this place is astounding! I try not to take it for granted, but when one is late for an appointment or thinking about stupid things like sales targets it can all go by unappreciated. It is days like today when I can be stopped short by the sight of a magnificent animal in his prime as he suns himself in the low October sun and be thankful that I was here to see it.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Damn it!

One of our lovely cats, Jack has died this morning. He was hit by one of those horrible trucks that lumbers past our place WAY TOO FAST. I didn't even know that something had gone wrong until I went into the bedroom to change for work to discover my bed was covered in blood. Jack had jumped up there to find a comfortable spot and bled everywhere.

In stead of getting work clothes on, I flung on any old clothes (there was going to be more blood) and got the cat carrier. After placing the very blood soaked cat into the carrier, off we went to the vet, phoning the vet and husband en-route.

When I got to the veterinarian's surgery, it was evident that Jack would not survive these horrific injuries. Both his front legs had been crushed beyond use. How he managed to get on our bed, I'll never know.

Jack was put down immediately. I didn't want our lovely cat suffering a minute more than he had to.

We used to call him Gravy Nose from time to time. He was terrible at keeping his nose free of gravy.
Later on today he'll be buried in the special spot underneath the cedar tree in the front garden.