Friday, March 30, 2007

What Greeted Me This Morning!

We had high winds last night. We've had high winds before, but it must have been at just the right angle. This morning when I got up to get our resident teenager up for school, I thought there was quite a bit of fresh air in the new front room. The birdsong outside was louder too. This was due to the fact that one of the windows had fallen out!
The Man of the Place says that it is his fault. He didn't cause the wind, so perhaps it is a defect in the installation. (?)

I think I'll leave the dog here at home to guard all our possessions until a replacement glass can be installed. Let's hope that the replacement glass can be put in soon, before the next round of wind and rain hits!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I'm Back!

I've been away from my beloved computer for just over a week. It seems longer, doesn't it?

We've had guests come and go, a lawnmower that won't start AND yesterday I did something I haven't done in years. I bought a dress.

I went into TK Maxx (it is the UK equivalent of TJ Maxx)- something I do from time to time during lunch. I start at handbags, go through bath products, shoes, kitchenwear, sheets, towels, toys and then clothes that are in my size. I usually flip through the clothes and see nothing I want. Every couple of months, I'll see something useful like a new white blouse and I'll get it.

It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes you see a garment that you can't live without. You don't know when you'll ever be able to wear the thing, but you know that if you leave it there, you'll be haunted for years about what might have been.

Where I will be able to wear this dress is beside the point. I live in the country. Deep in the country. We don't have restaurants where this dress might be appropriate. I don't go to events where there are red carpets, silver service or valet parking. There might be a work thing in the future where I can get away with wearing it.

Sigh - I love this dress.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Normal (ha!) transmission is due to start tomorrow

Thank you all for your words of sympathy about my poor ickle finger. It is still sore but definitely on the mend.

We should have a new broadband provider tomorrow. The helpful customer service guy said that I could go live from between midnight tonight and midnight tomorrow. I'll be back patrolling the interweb thingy at that time.

I will tell you that we had a house full on Sunday. I love having guests over. Firstly there
was Andy who went home to Ohio today after being here for a week's visit . He was a quiet, hygienic house guest who not only ate everything put in front of him, made nice comments about each meal he consumed. I would like his actions to be emulated by any and all future house guests. He also brought presents! Thanks Andy! You can come over anytime!

On Sunday clocks went forward that pesky hour. I hate the "spring forward" time change as you really do lose an hour of sleep. This mean that when I thought is was noon and my old friend Jameel, his wife Mahrukh and their gorgeous daughter Hana showed up, I thought they were an hour early. Nope, they were actually arriving at 1 pm when they said they would. Good thing I was up early and was ready to receive them. This lovely family live all the way down near London (Epsom) so it was a rare treat for me to have them here.

Jameel and I used to work for the same company years ago. Even though we have both moved on, we've always kept in touch. The bonus is that now he's got a incredible wife (beautiful, bright, tall and has a great sense of humour) and this stunning baby girl.

Little Hana has just turned two. It gave me the excuse to drag the box of toddler toys down from the loft and clean the high chair off. I've saved a number of baby things from George's early childhood so that when we have visiting royalty like Hana, I've got all the right equipment to make the stay more pleasant.

Our other old pal Peter and his son Laurence showed up for desert. I'm glad I made an apple crumble as well as a big chocolate layer cake. I don't know what I would ever do if I found that I had under catered for guests! The thought makes me shudder. Peter and Laurence are also appreciative diners - bless 'em. Laurence seems to have an internal sensor that beeps when I've got the ovens fired up and I'm in a baking mood. If I'm baking cookies, I know he'll show up. Laurence knows that food equals love. ;-)

So, now I find myself back to another Monday night. Is it me or are Monday nights much more common than Saturday nights?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Down for a bit

We are having major communication problems here at Whitelees. Our broadband provider has to be switched. This will take about 10 to 12 days. In the meantime, we are back to dear old dial-up. As you may know, this will make things VERY slow indeed.

On top of that, I broke a finger on Saturday. It was that dog's fault. Polly was going in for her annual check up and booster shots first thing on Saturday morning. I had her on her lead across the road from the vet clinic. I'm calming her down before we go in there, when one of the clinic employees shows up. She proceeds to make a big fuss over Polly (naturally) and gets her all excited and wound up. Even though Polly was on her lead, I grabbed her collar as well to control her better. Polly then did one of those alligator death rolls. One of my fingers was trapped under the collar and was twisted badly. I thought it had just been pinched.

Half an hour later, after Polly's appointment, I was at the clinic's front desk paying the bill. I noticed that the ring finger on my right hand (the one that had been trapped) was throbbing a bit and perhaps a bit puffy.

I went to the shops and got some milk, bread and other essentials before heading back out to our edge-of-nowhere house. When I got home, I notice that bruising was starting on the finger that had been pinched. As hours went past, the colours got darker and spread out further.

By the evening, I had convinced myself that I have either broken my finger or sprained it pretty badly. I haven't gone to the doctor. There really isn't any point. The finger doesn't need realignment and has been strapped to its neighbour the middle finger. Even if I did go to the doctor, had an x-ray and examination, the treatment would be the same; Tape it to the next finger. Gritty, stoical me. Are you impressed by my hardiness?

I'd show you a picture, but I can't upload photos from my camera to this laptop.

Friday, March 16, 2007

New Towels

I mentioned once that my mother was very good at gift giving. Freakishly good.

Until recently we had what could be described as an abundance of bathroom towels. Then we added a second bathroom. Then I had just enough towels for both bathrooms. Thanks to a gift that arrived in the post this week from my mother, we have gone back to our abundant towel status. She sent a lot of towels.

Here are some of the lovely white, fluffy towels. (the others are being washed)
You really need to wash towels just after you get them. New towels still have lots of fabric treatments on them. These fabric treatments or size makes the toweling fabric easier to handle during manufacture and look nice on the shop shelves. Sadly, it also prevents towels from absorbing water, their primary function. If you find yourself drying off with a new towel that hasn't been washed yet, you will find that you are merely smearing water around your skin and none of it is going into the towel. If you wrap your hair in one of these new, unwashed towels, you will find water trickling down the back of your neck and by your ears, which is most unpleasant.

When we were in Egypt last year, we stayed in a hotel for two weeks. The hotel was nice and the staff there really made such an effort to make us feel comfortable. The room cleaners put brand new fluffy towels in our room. They were new out of the wrapper and the staff set them out in pride of place in the bathroom. Sadly, we had to ask the confused hotel staff for older towels. The new ones just weren't doing the job.

I am in the process of washing, drying and refolding the new towels. They're such a bright white at the moment. I want them to stay that way for a long time. This means that I have to be extra vigilant in grabbing the towels before they get stuck in a mixed colour wash. They'll go grey, a bit yellow or an odd shade of not quite blue if I'm not careful. These are whites only wash towels. I also have to protect their whiteness by keeping them away from these items.

Purple grape juice

Muddy wellies

Thanks Mom! I love the new towels!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Spring will be here soon

To keep the condensation down on the inside of the windows, The Man of the Place left them open a crack last night. This meant that the dawn chorus was what we woke to. Our own addition to the morning birdsong melee was the distinctive cackle of a hen who has just laid an egg. That means that my hens, after months of enjoying their egg-free status, have started production again. You know they still EAT even though they don't lay eggs.

As I was feeding all God's creatures this morning, dog, chickens and rabbit, I was thinking that we've gotten off pretty lightly this winter. There have been very few days when I've had to scrape frost off the car and we've only had one dusting of snow. That's it. Now that the forsythia is in full bloom, I suspect that the late winter snow storm threat has passed. I went out to fill the bird feeders and as I was walking through the front lawn that really should be mowed sometime soon (got to get the lawnmower in for a service) I heard the geese. George and I saw a big V of them flying north yesterday and today, I've heard another bunch of them. The barnacle geese that overwinter here in this part of Scotland are making their move north and east to the breeding grounds in Greenland. Good luck with the goslings! See ya!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Best Bait For Mousetraps

It's peanut butter. Mice can't resist the stuff. Forget cheese. Mice only like cheese in Warner Brothers cartoons. Peanut butter is the best bait. I know that some will swear that chocolate is a pretty good mousetrap bait, but I've never had a bit of chocolate that I've been willing to sacrifice to mice.

I was cleaning the kitchen this morning as I do most Saturday mornings and discovered that under the kitchen sink smelled bad. Once I started moving things around I discovered there were mouse dropping everywhere! It looked like there had been an infestation of mice for some time. Really, I hadn't noticed anything until today.

We usually get some mice in the house in the autumn. The can always be found under the sink. There is a hole under the cupboard where the rising water main enters the house. It's warm under there and our cats couldn't get to them. On top of that, under the sink is the traditional place for the kitchen garbage bin. That equals a food source. Not much food, but some will be in there. It all adds up to mousy paradise.

I set traps for the mice when I notice signs of mice. This autumn, I thought we had escaped the annual invasion. I thought perhaps all the routes the mice take when looking for an overwintering spot had been blocked by our construction. Maybe we just didn't have mice this year. It has happened before. We did get mice, only they were the extra sneaky variety.

After cleaning up under the sink and spraying lots of disinfectant around, I dusted off the two mouse traps, baited them with peanut butter and set them by the hole for the water pipe under the sink. I pushed them into place with a pencil. The snappiness of mouse traps makes me flinchy so I use a pencil.

In less than ten minutes, I heard a snap. The first mouse had been caught. Throughout the day, I've checked the traps to see if they've been sprung. Most of the time, they had been sprung and had to be emptied and reset. At the time of writing nine mice have been killed. That is nine mice in one day!!!! I am aghast! We have a proper infestation going on here. I know it is one of the drawbacks to country life, the occasional mouse in the house, but really!

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

I have mentioned that George has moved out of the bedroom that has been his since infancy. He has moved into the new wing of the house. In preparing his old room to become the guest bedroom/library I have had to paint over the under sea mural that has been there for nine or so years.

As the colours that I used were quite strong, I thought I should use some sort of base coat that was formulated to paint over strong colours before we went on to paint the room some unoffending neutral colour. It hasn't worked very well. The strong primary colours are being masked by this base coat, but the permanent marker outlines are bleeding through. In fact they've bled through two and sometimes three coats of this specially formulated base coat. NUTS!

We now have partially painted walls with these disembodied Cheshire Cat smiles popping through in an odd shade of purple. I'm going to have to get some professional advice as to how I can seal this so it will stop seeping through the paint.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Dream Aquarium

Through a very favourable trade with our plumber, I have become the proud owner of a new aquarium. It is my all time dream aquarium too. It's HUGE!

The full to the top capacity of this behemoth is 44o litres. That's 116 gallons!!

We considered having a salt water or marine aquarium, but our pockets aren't deep enough at the moment and to start one of those, you need a bit of extra equipment and knowledge. My experience is with tropical fresh water fish only.

I've had an aquarium since I was a child and I got a whopping 20 gallon aquarium for Christmas one year. I loved that thing. I spent all my pocket money on fish, aquatic plants, food and accessories. I knew all the Latin names for the fish and plants. I had dreams of becoming a marine biologist. It was my interest in all things connected with my aquarium that I realized that sometimes grown ups don't know everything.

I had gone to babysit one Saturday night for some folks with small children. This is how I got extra money for fish. While the couple were getting ready to go out, I was talking to them about my aquarium. I must have just bought something new for it or checked a big book about tropical fish out at the library because I was pretty gassed about the whole subject. I talked about the plants that I was going to put in it, using the Latin names. When I paused for breath, I noticed that they were giving me a look that said that they really didn't know what on earth I was rattling on about. I back tracked and explained what I had just said and then shut up.

Anyway, back to the new tank . . . .We've decided on a location for this beautiful thing and our pal Eric the Joiner (carpenter) is going to make a sturdy stand for it. It has to be VERY sturdy. When full of water, this aquarium will weigh a tonne! The stand is just the beginning. I also need:

1. Filtration system - to keep the water clean
2. Lights - so I can see the fishies and the plants won't die
3. Heater - they're tropical fish not native Scottish fish
Only after I have all of these things can I start to think about filling it with water and eventually adding in the fish. As ever, I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

We've Got the Boy Back

He's home from his epic week long trip to Pila in the Aosta vally, Italy.
This shot is overexposed, but you can see George plainly in the very centre of the photo with his arms crossed.
George is full of enthusiasm for the new sport he has learned, insisting that next winter we are to all go for a skiing holiday to The Alps. I don't want to break it to him that a skiing holiday is a bit more than we can afford, but it would be fun to think about. I love skiing.
I picked him up just before five on Sunday evening. He was so tired. We managed to keep him up through dinner. I fixed his favourite desert, apple crumble. Henry drew George a bath and when he hit the pillow, he was knocked out by the concussion of his head hitting the pillow.
We let him sleep through and miss school on Monday. He was too tired and would have been impossible. No knowledge would have sunk in on Monday. Sleep deprivation blocks knowledge receptors. George actually slept through until 2pm! He phoned us at work when he finally emerged from his bed.

The Mont Blanc tunnel was blocked on Saturday due to a landslip on the French side. This meant that they had to get to Calais via a different route. George's bus went through a corner of Switzerland. The kid now has a country on his list that neither of his parents have been to. Lucky git!
The house has stopped being quite so tidy and quiet. I'm glad to have him home.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Lunar Eclipse - Bad Omen or Natural Occurrance

We had a lunar eclipse last night, well everybody had a lunar eclipse. Thing is, last night wasn't cloudy! The Man of the Place and I got to see the whole thing!

I've borrowed some photographs from Dean at Mostlymacro after first getting his permission. The camera equipment I have here at Whitelees wasn't up to the task. There are always beautiful nature photos over at Dean's blog.

A lunar eclipse seems to take a whole heck of a lot longer than a solar eclipse.

It was interesting to watch the full moon get nibbled away by the shadow of the earth.

I really enjoyed popping through from time to time to the east window of the house to see what phase the eclipse had reached so far. We opened the window so that we could get a clearer view with our telescope (gift from my mother) and we could hear one of the local barn owls hunting. Barn owls make a "peep" call as they hunt. This owl got VERY close to the house. In fact, I was half expecting to see it as the calls were so close. I am glad to merely hear it. I thought that with the loss of the old barn up the road a couple of years ago, we had lost our barn owls.

Henry started to get a little freaked out by lunar eclipses and owls calling. I teased him about going all medieval on me and went on about ill omen and bad juju.

My rational head knows that it is just a naturally occurring event and that it doesn't forecast doom however this morning when I went to go feed my chickens, I discovered that Rocky the rooster was gone. He had died at some point yesterday.

He was fine yesterday when I was outside working in the garden. He was crowing and scratching about like a normal chicken. This morning, he was a colourful pile of feathers in the corner of the chicken run. I guess it was his time. He was about five years old. At least two of your daughters are still here. Goodbye Rocky, you were one beautiful Welsummer chicken.

Friday, March 02, 2007

There is Hope

This photo of my beautiful mother was taken at The Peabody Hotel in Baltimore this morning. My mother is recovering from having a cochlear implant, which was inserted at Johns Hopkins Hospital on Thursday morning.

I got a bit emotional when I saw her smiling face. There is some slight bruising by her eye that I wasn't expecting but other than that, she looks terrific!

I think the thing that made my throat tighten was that I'm not there to witness this with her. I was certainly around when her hearing went away. I had mentioned this to her in an e-mail or instant message or comment on her blog earlier in the week. When she goes in to have the implant turned on, there will be sound. I'm so excited about this!

When I was a little girl, my mother could hear. She used to have records. I remember her owning not only Jackie Gleason albums (?), she also had some Joan Baez and Herb Alpert. As the years rolled on and I grew up, I became aware that Mom was hard of hearing. It never got any better. There wasn't a miracle hearing aid that would cure her. Some hearing aids worked for a while. Old fashioned, the hearing aids would whistle fiercely with feedback when we hugged her. Sometimes they'd whistle on their own and she had to be told. "Ma, you're hearing aid is whistling." If you walked into the kitchen in the evening, it could very well be that her hearing aids would be on the kitchen table, humming away with feedback on their own because she forgot to turn them off after she took them out. We'd just turn them off for her ourselves so that the batteries wouldn't wear down.

We got a volume control for the telephone handset. When picking up the phone after Mom had used it, one always had to turn the dial to a smaller number. Her hearing loss was progressive. By the time I was a teenager, her hearing loss was significant and couldn't be ignored. We got used to making sure that Mom could see our face when we were talking to her and to speak clearly, no muttering and no exaggeration. It was frustrating for everybody. I was sometimes not so good at dealing with my own frustration. I would accuse her of not being as deaf as she was acting when in fact she was deafer than she let on. I also took advantage of the fact that once her hearing aids were out, she wouldn't hear a thing until morning and took my time about coming home at night. Teenagers can be so rotten and self-absorbed. Sorry about that Mom.

It was so hard for her. She and my father had split up and she was trying to raise the four of us while trying to deal with progressive hearing loss. I remember that in 1981 when I was a senior in high school, she could still use the phone if she was talking to somebody she knew. We had little ways of plowing through a conversation so that Mom could understand most of the important stuff. Towards the end, her phone use was very limited. She would be able to ask questions and hear our yes or no answers. By 1982 she wasn't using the phone at all.

We have been using TTD machines for years. I've got one here at the house but it is on my bedroom shelves. I can still run and get it if I hear the tell tale squeal of a TTD machine on the other end of the phone. There is also a deaf relay service in Washington, but I don't know how I could use that on an overseas call. The computer has really taken over in the past 10 years or so. We've got e-mail and instant messages. It really has improved communication between us dramatically!

Now Mom has gone for a cochlear implant. She has documented her journey up to this date on her own blog. She has the right kind of deafness and was clever enough to live near the US expert in the field and got him to perform her surgery. All we can do now is wait. Wait for her to heal up and for the first week in April to hurry up and get here. April is when her implant gets turned on and tuned in.

I think there is a way for her to hear MP3 files after she has been through her tuning in process which takes at least three sessions. I'm having George make some recordings for her. He plays the guitar and piano. Even though he's not a professional, I'm sure his grandmother would be pleased to hear it.

I would dearly love to be there to witness the grand tuning in, sadly I can't. She has said that I'm the first person she is going to call when it's tuned in and I can't wait!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

World Book Day

1st of March is World Book Day. The local primary school celebrated by letting the little ones come to school dressed as their favourite character from a book.

When George was still in primary school, he went dressed as Oor Wullie.
He had the blonde hair already, all he needed was a pair of overalls, a white shirt and a bucket.

There are always a couple of Harry Potters, a Dumbledore or two, princesses, Robin Hood and the like. I would have dressed up as Nancy Drew. It was her tales of cleverness that hooked me years ago. I used to walk to the library and check out the limit of books that I was allowed to check out on my junior library card. I think I made it through all the Nancy Drew books that the small library near us had in stock. I remember clearly being annoyed that they hadn't put the series in numerical order. It always took longer to work through the titles. Sometimes, I had to read a page or two to make sure I hadn't already read it.
I also loved The Secret Garden. I was annoyed that when I finished that book, that was it. It wasn't a series. I had to search for books like The Secret Garden to transport me to new places. It was the only way I could travel at that age.
With my nose almost permanently in a book in my pre-teen years, I was called Book Worm and The Professor. I didn't actually care. I liked the feeling of superiority it gave me. I used to use my advanced vocabulary to taunt those who weren't as widely read as I. I remember making my sister Sally mad by calling her a homo sapien. She didn't know what that was and went running to our mother thinking that I had used some nasty word and I was going to get it.
I have mentioned that Pride and Prejudice is now my favourite book of all time. To mark the 10th anniversary of World Book Day, a poll was conducted. Over 2000 people voted on line. The Nation's favourite book is: Pride and Prejudice! I feel validated.
I've got a couple of paperbacks that The Man of The Place brought home for me earlier in the week. He has perfect timing, I have just finished a book and was trawling through our own bookshelves in search of something to re-read.
So, in honour of World Book Day, I have turned off "the idiot box" as my Uncle Bob calls it, got my favourite blue jammies on and as soon as I hit the little orange publish button on this blog entry, I'm going to curl up with a fresh new book.