This is your chance!

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Have you ever wanted to run your own store in the cutest little town?  Well here is your chance.  Our beloved store in Milford just went up for sale on Thursday.  It is the local hub of our community.  Our kids often walk here in the summer, on the way to the Milford bridge. They buy themselves a treat and then watch kids jump off the bridge into the waters below.

You can always find out the latest news at Jen’s store.  She is always good for a chat, and has her finger on the pulse of Milford.  But alas, she has other fish to fry, and is ready to move on to her next project.

Her store has a commercial kitchen, seating area, washrooms, general store and an apartment above.  You can have all this for $335,000.  But don’t delay.  It is only for sale for the next 30 days.

You can check out the full listing here.   C’mon, you know you want to.

 

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Sweet Sixteen

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Happy birthday to me!

Above is my school photo from grade nine.  It is hands down my worst school photo of my educational career.  Funny enough, it was my dad’s favorite photo of me.  He use to carry it in his wallet, showing it to colleagues and asking them to guess my age.  He thought I looked so much older than my 13 years.

Today I am 46.  The kids and I have decided we are going to pretend it is 30 years ago.  So I am celebrating my sweet sixteenth birthday and my forty sixth all in one day.

Around my 16th birthday, I fell ill with pneumonia.  I was mostly passed out and in bed for about a week.  I could only get out of bed with the help of my brother or mom.  I barely ate or drank that week, and completely missed my sixteenth birthday.  It seemed like a tragedy at the time as most interruptions do at that age.  But nonetheless, it was missed and must be celebrated.  There will be sixteen candles on my cake, but I will receive forty six patty whacks. I guess I have to take the bad with the good.

My day has been great so far.  I was showered with cuddles from all my significant others first thing in the morning.  Ruby made me breakfast, Wini brought me a perfect coffee with steamed milk, and Reya baked me a chocolate cake from scratch.  We made the snowy trek to Wellington to go for lunch, where we had had multiple laughing fits over family jokes, and planned our adventures for 2018.

We are now back at home, snuggled in by the fire, with a family movie planned for tonight and individually dressed nachos by Jess on our dinner menu.  Perfectly simple for this 16 (+30) year old.

 

 

 

The Journey

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We have just returned from a lovely, warm trip to Florida.  Sandy beaches, short wearing, pool swimming, ice cream eating, tropical wildlife and sight seeing filled our lazy days.  After several long days of driving, we returned to our frigid abode.  We have a unique home with a equality unique heating system.  It is hard for us to leave in the winter months as we have a manual heating system.  Our wood stove heats our gym, and our wood pellet boiler heats the rest of our home.  Both need daily attention.  Jess fills our pellet boiler twice a day and I load our wood stove countless times as I like it to be roaring and toasty in the gym as it is our main living space.  To leave for a week, we have to shut it all down.  Jess blew out our water pipes and turned our water off.  We filled buckets of water for impending toilet flushes, and made sure we knew where are cozy slippers were.

After a 14 hour drive Monday night, we returned to a chilly home.  The pipes had frozen despite the antifreeze, and Jess was up until 4 am getting our system back on track.  We stocked the fire and put mattresses on the floor around the stove and had a good old fashion camp out in the gym to get us through the night.  Two days later, it is almost back up to comfortable temperatures but we still need our slippers close by.

I have never driven to Florida before.  I realize it is not a novel concept and many people have done it before us.  It was quite manageable with three kids and two large dogs in the back.  Sitting in a car for 12-14 hours a day naturally inspires a certain amount of navel gazing.  Although it was hard to even find my navel amongst all the snack wrappers, dog hair and take out food, I did manage to have a few thoughts on the road.  As Jess did all the driving, I was well stocked with books, magazines, movies and podcasts to fill my hours.  Surprisingly, I mostly just looked out the window.  I thought a fair bit about what sort of entertainment I had brought and why.  I had three large bags at my feet.  One was full of coloured pencils, a colouring book, a sketch book, my embroidery project, books titled Drawing Figure Drawing, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and The Artist’s Way.   My other bag was stuffed with design magazines, a giant Rohinton Mistry novel, and another sketch/note book.  The third bag was filled  mostly with DVDs for my kids, as I couldn’t master illegal downloading on the fly, and two for me: BBC’s Pride and Prejudice miniseries, and a documentary on Fran Lebowitz.

So what is the theme here? Let’s work backwards.  I found my DVDs at Value Village and I have never enjoyed a miniseries more than Pride and Prejudice so that’s an easy 6 hour kill.  I may become a Colin Firth stalker in my next career, but that is fodder for another post.  I am going to hear Franny speak in Toronto in April, so there is that.  The rest of my bundle of treats combine art and design, with a little design and art on the side.

From an early age, my mom told me to never depend financially on a man and to always have a job.  She had left England at 16 to become an au pair in New York, met my dad, and had two kids.  By the time I was seven, my parents were divorced, and my mom still had us kids but also lacked any marketable skills for the job force.  This is not a sob story, and that divorce was the best thing that ever happened to the three of us.

My mom had always wanted to be a nurse.  While working a low paying job, with little financial support or childcare, my mom went to night school and became a nurse.  She was a superstar, and a damn good oncology nurse.  She may not have been the most technically minded nurse out there, but boy did she kick every nurses ass on the love and compassion front.

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I took her advice to heart.  I have agonized over what career to have since I was 12 years old. My career plans have changed as frequently as my age.  I always wanted a job in the arts but it didn’t seem like the path to stable employment.  So I looked the other way, and marched down the road of practicality. I choose my second degree not on interest but on future job prospects.  I researched which educational stream would provide the most job options in my geographical area and chose accordingly.  I am even boring myself thinking about it right now.  Automation was a thing of the future so off I went and enrolled in a robotics program.  I was top of my class and got a good job that I excelled at.

And then I gave birth three times in three years, and fully depended on my man financially for years to come.  I had no energy for any job in my sleep deprived, diaper filled world other than parenting.  Sorry about that mom.

But don’t you worry, it has all worked out so far.  We have made some unconventional decisions, some wise and some not. I am currently self employed with months of unpaid work in my fiscal calendar.  If my mom was able to become a nurse amid all those obstacles, I think I should be able to be an artist with my unfettered calendar.  I am not aiming to be great, I just want to lose myself in the process.

I am turning 46 in a few days.  This is the year I am going to embrace the impractical, and the whimsical, and throw logic to the wayside.  I will still look the same when you see me.  I won’t be walking around town unbathed, hair matted and speaking in tongues.  I will still be me but I am going to open that door that I closed long ago and let the light in.

I am going to use The Artist’s Way as my guide, and my starting point.  I bought it in 1991 and have never fully used it.   I have read it and thought about it but never begun it.

Tomorrow it begins.  Wish me luck.

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Merry Christmas and all that

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On the last day of school before the holidays, a winter storm has barged in and dashed all my hopes for a little solitude before the winter break.  The school buses have been cancelled, so the kids are home and the holidays have begun.  I do love a white Christmas.  Snow makes all the below freezing temperatures worthwhile.  It is also much easier to kick those lounging kids outside for some exercise.  It does make me want to hibernate and cuddle up with a good book in front of the fire, but I am also quite keen to get some use out of my cross country skis this year as they were barely touched last winter.  When I lived in Montreal in my twenties, my first winter was unbearable.  I had never experienced a colder, or snowier environment ever in my life.  It wasn’t until I started cross country skiing that I started to look forward to the snowy winters.

Snow also makes Christmas seem much more festive.  Without snow, Christmas can seem like an orgy of forced consumerism.  At least with snow, the consumerism orgy is a little more aesthetically pleasing.  There is always that someone at an orgy that you did not want to see naked.  A little snow obscures your view just enough to make everyone beautiful.

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When did humans start needing all this stuff?  How can there be a list of goods wanted every year?  I know it is tempting to want what that other guy has, but isn’t everyone tired of having so many things? We try and downplay the gifts and up sell the giving around here.  Each of my kids chooses a charity to donate to each year, and can submit a small wanted list.  I do some of my shopping at the thrift store, some new, and a lot of homemade.  We were the lucky recipients of a bin of felted wool (thank you CakeTin Hats), and have all been crafting our little hearts out for most of the month.  I am sure Jess will be thrilled with his one lumpy slipper I have made him.  He has size 15 feet so I am not sure he has had a pair of slippers that has ever fit him properly.  His dream of well fitting slippers may not be realized with Lumpy #1, but we have high hopes for Lumpy #2 which may appear after Santa is long gone.

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I know for many people Christmas is about Christ and not the gifts.  But when you are married to an atheist, God not only plays a minor role during this season but he is sometimes completely cut from the show.  My stepmother has visited us twice in the last 6 weeks.  She brings a steady dose of God and his pals to our house when she is here.  I am all for the religious education of my kids, as I would like them to be well informed and able to make up their own minds regarding religion.  I want their knowledge to be well stocked when they have that believer/non believer debate sometime in their adult life.

However you celebrate your holidays, let them be merry and full of love.  I hope you have food to eat, a dry roof over your head, and loved ones by your side. Be grateful for the people at your table, as they may not be there next year.  Be kind, not just to the nice ones but the grumps too.  Sometimes the grumps need your kindness the most.  Be gracious, we are all just doing the best we can right now, even when our best is a bit crumpled around the edges.  If you have nothing to bring to the table, bring love.  Love and forgiveness will take you far beyond the holidays and into the new year.

Love to you all this holiday season and may all your wishes come true!

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Old School Bluegrass Camp 2018

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We are absolutely thrilled to announce that registration is now open for our 4th Old School Bluegrass Camp 2018!  Camp will run from Sunday July 1st to Friday July 6th.

As usual, we have all the bluegrass A-listers as instructors.  Most of the Foggy Hogtown Boys will be here, as will Joey Wright teaching guitar, and Mike Mezzatesta on mandolin.  The very talented Kristine Schmitt will be teaching vocals, and our beloved Ivan Rosenberg will be working the slow jams, and coordinating all our evening concerts featuring the music of bluegrass legends.

We will also have new, classic, country concerts featuring your instructors and special guests.  All this live music is just an extra exclusive perk of being a camper!

We have a few new workshops next year including songwriting and bluegrass karaoke, plus a little square dancing thrown in for fun. We did the 2 and 3 chords songs workshop last year but are adding a second by popular demand.  It’s hard to imagine we could cram in more fun after the last few years, but by jove I think we’ve done it!

We would love for you to join us next July!  We are already half full as there is early registration for our wonderful alumni.  So don’t delay, and sign up right here!

 

My Dad

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Seven years ago today my father died.  I don’t speak of him often as we had a complicated relationship.  He was a man full of love, laughter and terrible jokes.  He taught me how to play tennis, hockey and chess.  He played guitar for us, and sang.  He was a good grandfather and loved his grandkids dearly.  The amount of love that filled him was levered with equal parts anger.  He was a drinker with a temper, and it made for an unsteady childhood, to put it mildly.

My oldest daughter had just turned six.  We had the whole family over for her birthday dinner at our little house in Toronto, and my dad arrived with his personal support worker.  I made meatballs, and my dad said I would of made my grandmother proud.  My dad was half Italian, and liked good food.  His mother was born in Calabria, with family roots in Sicily.  He was dead two days later on Thanksgiving Sunday.

My friend Heather was visiting when the policeman came to my door.  I immediately started joking with him, asking if he needed backup, or if he came to arrest me for being so awesome? I now know that it is rarely a joking matter when a police officer arrives at your door.  Jess and I left our young children with Heather, and we went to identify my father’s body.

When I arrived at my dad’s house in Markham I set about calling his family.  My stepmother was on a well deserved vacation at the time.  I couldn’t understand why my phone call to my uncle was not connecting.  I finally realized that they had blocked my father’s number.  His relations with his family had become strained.  Addiction rarely improves relationships.  As a result, I hadn’t seen many of my father’s siblings in years.

This past spring, I went to my cousin’s wedding celebration in New York State.  I reconnected with my aunts, uncles, and cousins on my father’s side.  It was so lovely to see people who look like my dad, and me.  It filled a void that I have been unable to fill on my own.   I hope to see more of them in my near future.

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And today, my stepmother is visiting us for the first time since we have moved to the County.  I have asked her to bring my father’s photo albums so we can reminisce about my dad and the happier times we had.  My children don’t have many memories of my dad, and I want them to know the good parts about him.  I believe he tried his best as a father most of the time.  Some people are unable to overcome their personal demons, and my dad was one of them.

On the day of my dad’s funeral, I wrote him a letter of thanks and forgiveness and left it in his embalmed hand.  Sometimes it is easier to forgive someone when they can no longer do harm.

Seven years is a long time. A lot has happened over that span.  The world keeps spinning after death, kids grow up, lives continue.  Tonight, over our bowl of meatballs, we will toast a man who brought both joy and sorrow to this world.

 

 

 

Winter Projects

 

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The bed and breakfast is coming to a close at the end of the month, as is my book keeping job at the farm.  This will soon leave me with plenty of time to do the things I long to do. Our new lifestyle allows for plenty of work and play, just not always at the same time.  There are clear cut working months and relaxing months to our year  All of us here in Prince Edward County who’s lives ebb and flow with the tourist season, can breathe a little easier with our new found time when October rolls around.  I have some really big plans for my fall and winter months and I can’t wait to start them.  And by “really big plans”, I do mean small, attainable, and enjoyable plans.

Crafting: I am trying my hand at embroidery.  It’s an old timey craft and I’ve found some hip designs from Cozy Blue.   I am hoping that pairing will make me feel less like an old lady with a needle, and more like a happening middle aged crafter.  As with many of my crafts, I don’t really know what I am doing.  I watched a few videos on embroidery stitching so that knowledge should keep me going for a least a few patterns.  Plus I tend to have low standards for my crafts so I don’t get stressed out if they don’t turn out perfect.  It’s more about keeping my hands busy than the end result.

I have signed up for two painting classes this fall.  One is being taught by the lovely Kato Wake, whom I’ve had the pleasure of attending her class before.  And the other class is free for South Marysburgh residents, and will be taught by another local, talented painter Janice Gibbins.  I am so excited to lose myself in an art project twice a week for the next few weeks.  Here is the painting a made for my dog crazy daughter two years ago.  I am certainly not claiming to be the next Van Gogh, but I can tell you that my then eight year old was very impressed with my work.

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We have kept our bees wax from our honey harvest, and will be making lip balms, and lotions to keep our epidermis protected and well hydrated through the dry winter months.

Social Media: When I first encountered instagram, frankly I found it a bit dull.  I wanted more information than a single photo was able to give me.  Two winters ago, I decided to try and find one photo a day to post in a bleak wintery landscape.  I liked the hunt for something beautiful to share each day.  After that winter, I was hooked.  I am now an avid instagrammer, and marvel in the snapshots of my friends, neighbours, and strangers around the world.

I recently started a new instagram account.  My handle is @thelifeofmydeadmom.  When my mom died, I kept many of her things including all of her photos.  Years ago, I arranged them by decade and then put them in a box.  That box has stayed closed for most of the last three years.  It’s been too hard to look at them.  I have often been on the verge of tears much of the last few years, and was unwilling to let these photos unleash the torrent of tears.  I am much more comfortable on the calm side of the dam.  I am now in a different place emotionally, and thought it was time to organize.  Each day I take a photo from my mom’s collection, post it in my account and then transfer the photo to a photo album.  It makes a large task more manageable for me.  I also want to share these photos with my family in the U.K., and my mom’s friends.  And I have questions, with no one close by to ask.  I am hoping my mom’s family and friends can fill in the blanks when needed.

Next on the horizon, is @thelifeofmydeaddad.  This may prove to be a bit more tricky as I don’t have many photos of my father.  It may have to be a joint project with my stepmother, and the Hawkins clan.

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Our Home: I plan on elevating our home with a few finer touches.  Just some basics like paint, light fixtures, and window treatments.  I have spent some time pricing out roman blinds for our excessive amount of windows.  It has taken me a while to reluctantly conclude that outsourcing this job is out of my price range. It is a task I will have to complete myself, although I lack the skill.  I have watched videos and plan to start some practice blinds soon.  If you are in the market for some badly made roman blinds, I may soon be your gal.  We do own five sewing machines, yet none work properly.  Perhaps the first step in this plan is finding a sewing machine repair person.  Any recommendations?

Writing: I would like to write more.  I don’t always have things to say which can damper prolific writing.  I have been encouraged by several friends to write a book.  I am taking that suggestion fairly seriously, and have written the first paragraph in my head.  I have yet to transfer it to digital paper but it is all part of my big winter plans.  Once I am officially out of work and back in my track pants, I am going to set a strict writing schedule. We will have to see where that takes me.

I can do most anything in track pants.