Friday, April 24, 2015

Around my house


(as inspired by Brooke)

In my fridge you'll always find:
Milk (1%), yogurt (various fruit flavours), baby carrots, and a Brita pitcher with water chilling  
Favorite family recipe:
My mother makes a snack that involves a butter & brown sugar, melted together & poured over a cookie sheet lined with graham crackers, topped with nuts (chopped walnuts or slivered almonds) and baked for a few minutes. It's so simple but people just go ga-ga over it;  they disappear very quickly. The recipe came from my grandmother's neighbour and has been around almost as long as I have. I've seen a variation on this recipe that includes a layer of chocolate too. :)
Favorite junk food:
Popcorn or potato chips  
I'll do anything to avoid:
Mopping the floors. I even bought one of those electric steam mops after a friend raved about hers, thinking it might be incentive to do the floors more often. Ummm, nope. :p  
My secret cleaning weapon is:
Vinegar and baking soda -- one or the other works on just about everything. Also, I love my Swiffer duster. :)
Before company arrives, I hide:
The pile of books and magazines sitting beside the loveseat where I sit. And close the door to the front room/office, where I have piles of scrapbooking supplies (sadly unused for some time now...).
I love to shop for:
Jewelry, makeup & skincare products (although I don't wear much makeup these days!). The day I walked into my first Sephora, I thought I'd died & gone to heaven. ;) And, while there was a time I never thought I'd write this, I love shopping for cute outfits for the two little Princesses.
I hate to shop for:
Bras (which is why I put off doing it for so long... I finally got some new ones last summer. I won't tell you how old the old ones were...!).
Bad habit:
I just learned:
I have a fourth cousin who is married to a famous Canadian author, and another fourth cousin who is a Canadian country singer. :)  Never knew they existed until this week and they wouldn't know me either, but it's stuff like this that makes genealogy fun. :)
Stuff I can't live without:
Chocolate, a supply of mints in my purse, my Filofax, yoga pants (and did I mention chocolate?).
Weird housekeeping compulsion:
I finish off each housecleaning session by taking a Lysol wipe & using it on all the light switches, door knobs, computer mice & keyboards, and remote controls in the house. I've been doing this for a couple of years now, I think since the big avian flu scare about five years ago, and I've noticed that both of us have been sick a lot less. 
On bed making:
I remember Mel polled her readers awhile back about whether they make the bed every day. I have to admit I was SHOCKED by how many people said they do not make their beds daily. I mean, I know some people don't (my sister, for one, probably hasn't made a bed since she left home, lol), but I was honestly surprised just how many people admitted to it. Dh & I always made our bed in the morning right after breakfast, before we got dressed & headed out for work -- and while we're not heading out to work anymore, we still make the bed in the morning. The house just looks neater, and as Brooke noted, it's just so nice to pull back the sheets and climb into a neatly made bed at night.
Personal motto/mantra:
Life is what happens while you're making other plans. (John Lennon)
I wish I could tell my younger self:
Lighten up a little.  :)
What's always in your fridge? What advice would you give your younger self? Spill it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

E-book: "The Mother Within" by Christine Erickson

I heard about "The Mother Within: A Guide To Accepting Your Childless Journey," a new e-book by Christine Erickson, via the Gateway Women page on Facebook earlier this month. A Kindle version of the book was being offered for a limited time, free of charge, via Amazon UK. 

As a Canadian, I was unable to download the book from Amazon UK -- but happily, I soon figured out that it was also on and I was able to download it from there -- and while I don't have a Kindle (my e-reader is a Kobo), I was still able to read the book on my laptop after downloading Amazon's free Kindle software. Unfortunately, the free deal is over, but the price is a very reasonable $2.97 US.

It's a fast read, just 91 pages, but packs a lot of wisdom, some astute observations, and questions at the end of each chapter that will get you thinking. The book is structured in three parts, focusing on Self (acknowledging your childlessness and moving toward acceptance), Other (coping with external perceptions of childlessness in a baby-mad world), and World (how to express yourself and begin a new conversation that influences the environment around you).

"We are part of a new history for women and we must not wait for our roles to be defined, but rather participate in creating spaces for our greatest impact," Erickson says, near the end of the book. "...We have the power to define our needs and to shift what is not working. To do this, we need to be visible, and we need to be able to recognize one another. It is time to take our power back."

Says Jody Day of Gateway Women in an review:  "As Erikson exhorts us... we can 'come out' together as a 'tribe' and change the conversations and assumptions by learning to live our lives and truths fearlessly, shamelessly and unapologetically. We have done nothing wrong; we are nothing wrong because we are not mothers."

Worth a read, and would be a great introduction to some of the basic issues and questions related to childless/free living if you're considering or new to this road less travelled.

You can find out more about the author and the book on her website.

This is book #7 that I've read so far in 2015.

Monday, April 20, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Waiting for a shopping spree

Dh & I are in semi-desperate need of a new mattress, and some new bedding to go along with it -- a comforter set, sheets & pillowcases, bedskirt & window valance.  I'm afraid to admit just how old our current stuff is. Let's just say that we bought everything at Eatons (which, if you are Canadian, you might remember went out of business in (gulp) 1999). It was a Springmaid pattern called "Bridal Bouquet" (I actually found a photo via Google!) -- creamy white background with pink, blue, green & rust flowers & ribbons. Very Laura Ashley (which was very popular at the time).

Needless to say, the mattress is starting to sag a bit in the middle, the comforter is getting a bit yellowed and the sheets are starting to wear a little thin (even though I bought three sets that I rotate). Plus (much as I tend to cling to the familiar), I just feel like it's time for a change.

So I've been keeping my eyes open for something I like. I tend to be a bit picky... but (as you can tell) I usually hang onto things for quite awhile;  I might as well make sure I like it, right?  And I've found a few potential candidates recently. 

So what's holding me back? Blame Aunt Flo. A few years ago, when I started thinking some new stuff might be in order, I decided I should wait until she had made her final exit from my home and my life, and I was officially in menopause ( = one year from the date of my last period). Why ruin perfectly good new stuff, right? (especially if the stuff I wanted was white or light coloured...!)  And buying a whole new bedding set seemed like the perfect way to celebrate Aunt Flo's departure.  I figured it couldn't be that much longer. (Could it??)

Yet here I am, 54 years old and counting, the mattress keeps sagging further, and Aunt Flo still sashays in every month or so, almost like clockwork. :p   Wouldn't you know she's the one part of my reproductive system that has never failed me?? 

How often do you change your bedroom d├ęcor? 

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here      

Friday, April 17, 2015


Would you believe this is my 900th published post??!

(OK, it's not much of a post, but I had to mark this milestone, lol.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Filling in the blanks

Katie's niche at Eastertime.
There's now a plaque at the right.
The bunny was a gift from her uncle, aunt & cousins.
We knew this day was coming, eventually.

Who knew it would be today?

When we lost Katie, and suddenly found ourselves with a funeral to plan, we decided to have her tiny body cremated, and the ashes (such as there were) interred at a local cemetery. We checked out the various options available -- cremation burial plot? Garden of Angels (section specifically for babies) burial plot? Columbarium niche? 

We settled on the niche -- a hole at eye level in a low marble wall (big enough to hold up to two urns), marked by a bronze plaque with a small bud vase attached. It was less expensive than a burial plot, but still a pretty big chunk of change to hand over, especially coming so unexpectedly and on top of the other funeral expenses (followed shortly thereafter by the sudden urgent need for a new furnace). The salesman made some noises about how we should buy the niche beside hers for ourselves -- but that was something we simply couldn't afford at the time. "Someday," we said, putting it at the back of our minds.

Nobody likes to think about their own demise (let alone their baby's), and so the weeks and months stretched into years. Eventually, we cleared our debts and started accumulating some savings, but still we did nothing. "One of these days, we're going to drive up here and there will be a plaque on that niche beside Katie's, and we're going to regret it," I remember saying to dh.

Finally, with the 10-year mark rapidly approaching, I put my foot down. "It's time," I said to dh. So 10 years to the day after I went for that fateful ultrasound and learned that my daughter's heart had stopped beating, we drove to the cemetery office and asked about purchasing the niche next to hers for ourselves.

We didn't expect to hear that it had already been purchased, by someone else. I guess since there wasn't a marker up, we thought it was still available. Live and learn.

The salesman showed us what else was available. In the columbarium block where Katie was, exactly two spots were still unspoken for, neither of them particularly close to her or otherwise "desirable." But there was a newly built columbarium just a few yards away, and that's where we picked out a spot for ourselves. The salesman suggested we could move Katie over there beside us, and I suppose we could have done that -- but I didn't want to move her. I figured that if we couldn't be right beside her where she was, this would have to be close enough. (I was already blogging by then, and wrote about this experience at the time, here.)

(We were amused awhile later to find a marker on the niche above ours, with an inscription that included a few lines from Pink Floyd's "Time":  "The time is gone, the song is over/Thought I'd something more to say."  I suppose there are worse ways for a couple of baby boomers to spend eternity than in close proximity to Pink Floyd, lol.) 

More than six years has passed since then -- we're coming up to 17 years this summer, since we lost Katie.

And today, we went to visit the cemetery.

I was the first to notice it. "Look!"  I said. A bronze plaque marker had materialized on the once-empty spot next to Katie's. It hadn't been there the last time we visited, last week. No end dates filled in (yet?), so we don't know whether someone's ashes were recently interred there, or if they just decided to order the plaque now, or what.

It was weird to see it there. But we knew it was going to happen, someday. And now it has.

The blank spots on the marble walls have slowly been filling up over the years;  only a handful of vacancies remain. The babies of 1998 are turning 17 this year, and will be starting their final year of high school this fall. Their parents -- including dh & me -- are 17 years older, and greyer, and closer to filling those empty niches ourselves.

Time marches on, relentlessly.

Monday, April 13, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

*  I was grasping at straws for something to write about today. Thank goodness for bullets. ;) 
*  It is finally, FINALLY feeling like spring around here. Today was supposed to reach 20C/68F. I don't think it's quite there -- but we've been out walking, and everyone has been out raking their yards & washing their cars. About time!!!
*  It was dh's birthday this past weekend. BIL invited us over for a barbecue, and we got to spend some quality time with our nephews and their girlfriends. Made dh's day. :) 
*  On a sad note, there was a death in my extended family this past week -- my mother's cousin's wife, 62 years old. Way too young, and totally unexpected.
*  When I hear stories like this, it makes me feel less guilty about my earlier-than-planned retirement. Sometimes, life is just too damned short.

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.      

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Book: "The Four Graces" by D.E. Stevenson

In my last book-related post, I reviewed two books by D.E. Stevenson, and said I was tackling "The Four Graces" next -- hopefully in time to participate in my upcoming Yahoo group discussions.

Not only did I get the first few chapters read before the questions about them were posted, I actually finished the entire book the same day the first questions for the group started appearing. :)  The discussion will continue for the next few weeks, and it's fun to be able to (finally) take part.

I enjoyed this volume as much, if not more, than the three Miss Buncle books that preceded it. It is tangentially related to that trilogy -- it takes place in a nearby village, shortly after the last Miss Buncle book ended (in the middle of the Second World War) and some of the same characters make appearances, including (very briefly at the beginning) Miss Buncle/Mrs. Abbott herself.  But I don't think you would have had to have read those books in order to read or enjoy or understand this one.

The title refers to the four Grace sisters, daughters of the widowed vicar of the church at Chevis Green:  Elizabeth (Liz), the oldest, who is doing farm work on the nearby estate;  Sarah (Sal), the main housekeeper;  Tilly (Matilda), who plays the organ and views outsiders with suspicions;  & Adeline (Addie), the youngest, who has enlisted in the women's auxiliary service.  The title may be just slightly misleading, as we don't actually see a lot of Addie in the book; most of the adventures that unfold revolve around the three older sisters, Sal and Liz in particular. (One reader review that I've read suggests that perhaps Stevenson intended to write a longer book, or a sequel that focused more on the younger sisters, but that obviously did not happen.) At first, I found it a little difficult to keep the sisters straight and who had said and done what -- but the more I read, the clearer their individual personalities became.  

The Graces' comfortable, cozy, insular home life is disrupted, first by the arrival of a boarder, then by a local soldier who appears to be interested in one of the sisters (but which one??) -- and then by the arrival of Aunt Rona (the wife of their late mother's late brother), whose home in London has been badly damaged by bombs. It soon becomes apparent she is looking for a new husband as well as a new home. ;) 

Although the book is not at all an ALI-related read, there were a few passages that appealed to my inner ALI-er.  First, in Chapter Ten, the Graces' maid Joan is relating some gossip to Sal about a falling out between Mrs. Toop and Miss Bodkin: 
"It was at Elsie Trod's," said Joan with a relish. "Maria Toop was there, and in comes Miss Bodkin. They were 'aving a cup of tea and Elsie was giving a drop to 'ar baby. 'You didn't ought to do that,' says Miss Bodkin. 'Tea's bad for 'is stummick.' With that Maria goes off the deep end and says, 'What do you know about babies any'ow?' And that was 'ow it began."   
"Miss Bodkin was right," said Sal. "I'll stir for a bit, shall I?"

Ouch. "What do you know about babies??"  I think more than a few of us have probably heard that line (or kept our mouths shut for fear of someone saying it to us).  :p  And of course Miss Bodkin is right, even if she doesn't have her own children to inform her advice.  (She's a bit of a comical character, a minor player, but a subject of pity and amusement throughout the book -- albeit her childlessness is not alluded to again, thankfully.)

There is also a small subplot, beginning in Chapter Eleven, involving Sal's efforts to help Mr. & Mrs. Element, a childless couple who have taken in Bertie, one of thousands of children who were evacuated from the cities during the war (away from the Luftwaffe air raids and bombs) to the relative safety of the country:
"It's about Bertie [said Mrs. Element]. Bertie Pike -- you know. I've 'ad him all the war."  
"I know," nodded Sal. "You've been most awfully good to him."  
"Yes," agreed Mrs. Element. "Yes, that's right. Jim and me, not 'aving children of our own (through no fault of ours, Miss Sal, though there's people who throw it in our faces), we took a fancy to the little chap. Just like one of our own, 'e is."  
"Yes, I know."  
"Well, Miss Sal, 'is mother wrote to Jim saying as 'ow the bombs are over and she wants 'im back...."  
"Oh, Mrs. Element!"  
..."Bertie don't want to go back and we don't want 'im to go back. There it is."

Well, what can I say? My heart went out to this poor woman whose childlessness "through no fault of ours" was so thoughtlessly thrown in her face, whose heart had been stolen by this child, whom she treated like her own, and who now faced the prospect of losing him. I've read other stories about wartime Britain and boarders and child evacuees, but never really thought about it from this perspective. Of course it would be hard to send a child back to his biological family after they've lived with you for a few years and become part of your own family. :(

And caveat emptor/spoiler alert: as you might expect, when there's a wedding near the end of a story, it's followed shortly afterward by the obligatory announcement.  :p  However, this WAS written in the 1940s, when such endings were practically mandatory. ;) I have decided to forgive Stevenson for this reason, lol.

There was one other passage near the very end (in Chapter 27) that I marked with a sticky note, because it seemed so very true about my own life (long before, during and since pregnancy): 
There was a great deal to think about. What a lot had happened to the Grace family in a few short months, what changes had taken place! Life was like that, thought Liz. You drifted on for years and years -- then, suddenly, everything happened at once and all the things that had seemed so stable dissolved and disintegrated before your eyes... and life was new.

Like other D.E. Stevenson books, this is a light, gentle, charming book about a bygone time and way of life. Best read with a cup of tea in your other hand. :)

This was book #6 that I've read so far in 2015. :)  (Now -- what to read next??)