Sunday, July 26, 2009

Update from The Funny Farm...

Forgive me, dear readers... for I have been Busy...

- The best news?! WE HAVE FOUND MARY POPPINS. I cannot believe it myself. She and I actually "met" on a nanny website (and, for the record, I HATE THE WORD "NANNY". To me, it sounds like a goat. Or something terribly chi-chi-poo-poo, non? Most of the people I hear dropping the words "my nanny" are those who spend entirely too much time getting their nails done and flirting with their tennis pro at "the club"). We were fortunate enough to run across one anothers' advertisements on the same day we both posted, and I could almost tell from the tone of her emails-- not to mention her spectacular resume and references-- that she was the one for us. My girlies adore her-- and so do I. She is everything I had hoped she would be, and more: intelligent, responsible, kind, affectionate, with a wonderful sense of humour... As I told her, so long as she and the girlies are happy, I can do anything. ANYTHING. Including acing this university degree in only eight months. Happiness at home is the key. And I am pretty sure that this delightful young woman is The Key.

- Just two short weeks ago, I turned forty. Yep, FORTY. And you know what?? NO BIG DEAL. I feel great, I look pretty damn good for a woman who has had three kids, and I am finally beginning to feel as though I'm getting my life on the right track. The thirties were hard years. Bring on the forties, I say-- I'm determined to make them some of the happiest, most productive and fulfilling years of my life.

- The garden is going CRAZY this year. I'm actually scrambling to try and keep up with it. The summer here has been cooler and damper than ones in past years-- we are so used to everything being scorched flat by this time in the season, from all the HEAT... But this summer, not so much, mercifully. Temperatures haven't cracked up past about twenty-six degrees Celsius, and that, plus all the torrential rain that seems to pass over us in fits and spurts, has caused my garden to grow like gangbusters. The new front beds are lush and green, and our vegetables are going to be positively prize-winning. The guinea pigs have been feasting for "free" on all the kale and chicory dandelion leaves we planted for them, and actually race for the doors of their hutches when they hear us coming with their dinners. The excited squeaking is positively deafening... I hope the girlies are that enthusiastic when the first harvest of tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and peas appear on our table in a few more weeks...

- And here, you see one of my proudest accomplishments of this summer. This? Is a home-made rain barrel. For months I scoured hardware stores and warehouses, searching for large barrels to catch rain water with which to water my plants... And sickeningly, like so many of the rest of the earth-saving enterprises out there these days, the average price of a rain barrel around here is between seventy and a hundred bucks. I sh*t you not. It's outrageous. It is SO outrageous that I finally jumped in my car and headed for the farm country where I was born, and marched straight into our neighbourhood Co-op.

The gentleman who works behind the counter has known my family for years. My father, one of the local doctors, delivered all of his children (he's actually delivered a good chunk of the population in my home town, interestingly... and has even delivered the babies of some of the babies he once delivered. If you get my drift.) He welcomed me through the door, and shared my dismay when I told him about my cost dilemma.

"So...." he said, as he eyed me sideways and grinned a lopsided smile. "You've come back home from the Big City for a little REALITY, have ya?"

Preferably CHEAP reality, I replied. Because I happen to know that enormous plastic barrels of the right size are plentiful on the local farms near where I was born. All kinds of strange concoctions are stored within them. Cow teat dip, for example. (Ew. And Ow, too, for that matter.)

The gentleman made a few phonecalls, rounded up a few pieces of plumbing hardware that cost me about two dollars and fifty cents, and sent me on my way. A half an hour later, my father and I arrived at an ancient general store in Winthrop, Ontario. And outside that general store were five or six huge, hideously-coloured plastic barrels... barrels that whiffed gently of garlic and pimento. OLIVE BARRELS. From Greece. This tiny little general store sells some pretty delectable foods, and the owner was only too delighted to let us take a couple of the storage barrels off of his hands. He even let us borrow a power drill and round, saw-toothed bit with which to cut the holes for the two faucets: one down near the bottom for filling watering cans, and one up above to expel any overflow.

I love my rain barrels. They are not sleek or decorator models. But they're practical, useful, and until that boston ivy creeps over them, they'll make great conversation pieces.

- We have been Cleaning again. This time, carpets. I rented one of those gigantic, growling red machines from our local grocery store, and did the top two floors of our house last weekend. The thick, black-ish brown substance that I was constantly emptying from the "used water" tank was more than slightly alarming... but I just kept going over and over each room, until it finally ran clear. Everything looks-- and smells-- lovely and fresh and clean... Now we just have to keep it that way, which is no small feat in the summertime, due to all the small feet we have running around here.

I'll give you my secret to soft, fresh clean carpets that turn out far better than if you were to hire a professional to do it for you: distilled water (which we collect from our dehumidifier), heated to almost-boiling on the stove, with only about a tablespoon of detergent, and a cup of white vinegar per two gallons of water. Yes, it is time-consuming work. It's hot, sweaty, dirty, and I think I strained my everything hauling all that machinery and buckets of hot water up and down the stairs... But oh, my, it's worth it. Next job? The basement carpets. Bring. It. On.

- We've been knitting! I have finished a gorgeous little hoodie sweater for Child Number Two, and she is loving the soft, cuddly yarn so much, she even wears it over her pyjamas in the evenings. I've also completed a beautiful cotton shawl for myself, and added a mother-of-pearl button to keep it in place around my shoulders. My last unfinished project is yet another afghan (this is the last one for awhile! I promise!! Oh, I'm such a sucker for a cosy blanket...), which I've done in a basket-weave stitch. I can't wait to get started on the NEW projects I've already lined up to clad my little family in the fall: a soft, blue alpaca shrug for Child Number One, two little tulip-shaped ponchos for Child Number Two and Wee Three... and a thick, warm sweater-coat for my mother, which I'll fasten with an antique Celtic pin, which was bequeathed to us by my very Scottish grandmother. I can't wait to see it on her...

- We are "into" tie-dying... Child Number Two came home from her horseback riding camp this summer with the most gorgeous tee shirt she had made... And the rest of us were wildly jealous. So, we sneaked out to the summer sale at "Old Navy", bought up vast quantities of white cotton apparel, and scampered home. I just hope all my knowledge of dying fabric from my olden days of costume-making comes back to me in time... I've been secretly sneaking peeks at Youtube videos, which give remarkably good instructions on how to tie up various garments, to produce different colour patterns. If I get good at this, I fear my entire wardrobe will soon look hippie-inspired. NOT GOOD. A little tie-dye goes a loooooong way. Remind me of this fact when my obsessive-compulsive urge kicks in.

- My title of "Dragon Lady" has taken on new meaning. This summer, the son of one of my dearest friends has entrusted me with the care and keeping of his Bearded Dragon Lizard, Fandango. It would be an understatement to say that I was slightly freaked out when my friend announced that Santa Claus was bringing them a reptile for Christmas last year. Indeed, for several weeks, I took it upon myself to try and talk her out of allowing the event-- I was deeply afraid that the presence of a bearded dragon in her house would prevent me from being able to visit her. Yep, you guessed it, I am NOT a snake person. Neither am I a snake-with-LEGS person, which is essentially what I deem lizards to BE.

However, to my surprise and delight, when Fandango made his appearance last December, my attitude towards creepy-crawly-slithery things changed dramatically. For Fandango turned out to be quite a little character. He blinked blearily up at me from under his heat lamp, and his eyes drifted shut as I gently scratched him on the head with one finger. The perma-smile on his face seemed to widen ever so slightly, and his soft little beard bristled.

Fandango and I have an understanding, it would seem. So much so that I don't even mind purchasing vast quantities of crickets for his dining enjoyment. The "super worms" creep me out a bit-- who knew there were actually worms that could JUMP? Gaaaa. But, Fandango only eats worms on weekends, according to the menu that his owner kindly emailed me several weeks ago. And so, I've got five days during which I can psyche myself up to handle them... and during those five days, Fandango seems very content to munch on calcium-powder-coated crickets and a leaf or two of fresh kale from my garden.

Yep, I've officially become a Dragon Lady.

And it suits me to a tie-dyed "tee".


painted maypole said...

a great, news update. glad things are going well on so many fronts!

merinz said...

OH boy you sure have been busy. So good to hear that all is well in your camp. Sounds very well in fact.

A true Mary Poppins is worth her weight in gold.Have the children tested her flying abilities yet?

Your summer climate this year sounds similar to ours. Occasionally we have a dry summer and everything burns up, but usually at some stage there is rain and then lots of lush growth (and weeds). Its a constant 'work in progress'.

Enjoy your forties. My forties were great - I went back to work and a whole new world opened up for me.

And lizards - my brother gave me a little green gecko he had saved from his dogs jaws. We called him Ecco the gecko and he became quite a character. Like you I wouldn't have thought that I would see character in a reptile. I eventually decided that he (or she) was lonely and I gave him to a lizard breeding facility. You actually have to have a licence to keep them here as they are endangered.

Sorry about the long rambling reply!

Nan said...

We've done some tie-dyeing too... I will ask mum for the recipe if you like. Washing soda? salt? Wet the cloth first? Don't skimp on the dye, and remember that you will have colourful hands and wooden spoons for weeks, even if you use gloves. Love the rain barrel, hate carpets.

I'm thinking of taking up knitting when we get to England, help! I may stick to scarves, though! Can you knit and read at the same time?

SO glad about your Mary Poppins! I hope she continues to be wonderful. send some of your luck my way. I'll need someone in the UK. I'm back on facebook, by the way. Do you facebook? I would love to keep in touch, and I'm making an effort to be more reliable! Will get logged back into Skype when we go, too. Best of luck with your studies!

Nan said...

An Happy Birthday! Forty, woot!

Leeann said...

I LOVE these kinds of posts from you. Yup. I do. Let's me peek at your life a little...KWIM?
I'm glad you are doing well and are in much better spirits than you have been lately.
Keep your chin up, my friend.

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