Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On the Road Again. . .

We're off on a road trip tomorrow morning -- at least, tomorrow we're getting over to the mainland and getting set up to start the serious driving Thursday morning. Heading up north, and then east, some 14 or 15 hours of driving spread over two days, to end up at my niece's wedding on Saturday.

As always, I've got my camera and my netbook with me, so depending on what facilities I find along the way, I may be checking in occasionally. There's some spectacular country along the way, so I hope to have a few photos for you.

Now back to planning what CDs to take . . . very important to make the right choice of music for a summer road trip!

Monday, July 26, 2010

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Which Way to the Beach?!

We got home July 8th, and it's been sunny ever since, with more of the same forecast through next weekend and beyond. I worry a bit about drought and the salmon soon trying to return, and I worry a bit about the fire high alert conditions on the island, and I worry a bit about which garden plants need coddling through this heat. But mostly, with the ocean right nearby to dip into for a cool-down, I'm just enjoying our good luck. We've had my daughter and her little one here all week, such a treat to get to visit at that relaxed pace. Friday night, my son and his GF joined us, then Saturday, Nola's Da-Da, and then our other daughter and her guy. Sunday was the double birthday (my oldest and my youngest share a birthday) AND the local Marine Festival, known far and wide for our Bathtub Races. There's a big party on the island Saturday night, and then we all watch the bathtubs race by when the cannon fires at 11 -- Lots of fun!

So I came downstairs Sunday morning to this collection of shoes by the front door. I love that sight -- really takes me back to the child/teen-rearing years when the kids would have their friends over and there'd be a barricade of shoes by the door.

Into the kitchen to make my tea, and I looked outside to another sight that made me happy,

Pater chatting with Daughter #3 and her BF in the rising sun (they get up surprisingly early since they've had their little dog -- good practise for you-know-what, not that I'm pushing for more grandchildren any time soon . . .)

Later in the morning, similar pose, different players (Daughter #1 and Son's GF). We made numerous errors in building/renovating our house, but the front deck and stairs we got just right. They were designed to get as much casual seating out of the stairs as possible, to accommodate chatting while view-watching, and they're brilliant for that as well as for enjoying a solitary morning coffee.

We're also pleased with how many little nooks there are for sitting away from the crowds -- and Pater likes moving around the yard through the day depending on which combo of sun and shade he wants.

And there's always room to spread out on the beach. Either for tide pool adventures -- imagine having all these aunts and uncles to turn over rocks on your command so that crabs might scuttle forth. . . what bliss for Nola!

And there are other blisses. A sea-weathered rock, flat as a bed, warmed by the sun, just the place for a weary young dad . . .

And if all that gorgeous nature isn't enough, we could always check out the pretty beach toes. This season's fashionable shades

And the cutest toes of all, the au naturel, but with a difference. This young fashionista has achieved this spotted tan effect with an innovative new technology.

Should you wish to achieve a similar effect, you will need to purchase, beg, or borrow a product like this and wear it conscientiously in the sunshine for several days . . .

Although perhaps you'd just as soon stay inside and practise your stair-climbing . . . .

We've had such fun. Son and GF left yesterday, the rest of the crew departs today. Pater and I will be having a long nap and observing a prolonged and contented silence thereafter.
How was your weekend? Do you love having summer houseguests?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Laundry Day and a bit of Portuguese Style

With a little person in the house this week, the washing machine has been very welcome, even though said little person's mother brought along a stack of disposable diapers. Darling little peach-and-pink gingham cropped pants dotted with tomato sauce, just-as-cute army-green cargos trimmed with polka dots rimed white with dried saltwater, a whale-appliqued pink t-shirt with enough blueberry splotches to make a small pie, all these make me happy to have a machine that can do a small cycle, on "Delicate" in ten or fifteen minutes. With the sunshine we've been having, clothes are dry on my little rack outside in a few hours, and we can start again, perhaps this time putting the blueberries on a yellow shirt, trying for tomato on the green. . . .

I was content for quite a few years to be a stay-at-home mom (working , though -- all moms are working moms, right?) so was able to indulge in cloth diapers and for our first year with our oldest, we had no dryer, so I hung many loads of laundry out on the line, often hauling them in before they were dry because it had started raining. I have to admit that, young as I was, rather idealistic environmentally, and still besotted with the novelty of independent domestic life, I could be caught sighing happily over the sight of those diapers flapping in the breeze.

And sometimes I'd think of my maternal grandmother. She had ten children, and although mothers toilet-trained early in those days, she would still occasionally have two in diapers at the same time, and they lived in Manitoba where many months of the year were only good for freezing clothes board-solid on the line. While my grandfather always worked hard to keep the family adequately, even comfortably, housed, their residences were never expansive, and these spaces were often decorated with laundry festooned from drying lines inside the house.

No wonder, then, that when a travelling salesman stopped by one day in the difficult 30s, my grandmother's heart would have beat faster at his description of the oh-so-useful washing machines he was selling. Just think of the hours she could save if the machine would agitate the clothes for her, instead of having to stir them and scrub them with her own tired hands, sometimes rubbing the knuckles raw. Imagine being able to feed them through the wringer to rid them of all the excess moisture, instead of wearing out her own wrists and finger joints wringing them out one by one. . . .

But no, Grandma would almost have snapped at the salesman, pushing down her silly excitement, how could she possibly afford such an item. Did she look as if there was money to spare on such foolishness? She was probably already shutting the door impatiently, getting back to her bread dough or scolding a curious child back to its chore of setting the table, when the clever salesman made a suggestion. What if she could buy the washing machine on credit? That was an easy suggestion for Grandma to resist, but his next one gave her pause: What if she washed clothes for some of the neighbours, earning enough money to pay for the washer herself?

And that, dear readers, is how my Grandma got her first washing machine, and left the washtub behind her for ever.

Perhaps what surprised me most about this story when she told me it many years ago is that when I told her how proud I was of her hard work and initiative, a domestic entrepreneur at a time and place when opportunities were few and when life was a constant struggle, she found my pride hard to credit. All Grandma felt, when she remembered this period, was shame. Doing domestic work for others was an abasement, a betrayal of the class movement she was committed to, the upward trajectory that her husband's hard work and their home ownership was meant to achieve. Caught between her upbringing in a French-Canadian farming family and the dreams encouraged by the 20th-century's carrot-dangling media (in effect decades before Mad Men, really), Grandma's shame stayed with her even into her comfortable old age in a house with her own washer and dryer and freezer and stove and fridge, all well-maintained, all paid for with cash, in advance . . . I could only hug her, a bit sadly, a bit wiser about the role class played in my own family history. I thought of Grandma's story a few weeks ago when we walked through several villages in Portugal's Beiras and noticed these communal washing facilities, decades if not centures old.

These "modcons" include a grooved or textured surface -- ribbed, not "for your pleasure," as certain ads promise, but for cleaning efficiency. Of the two we spotted, each scrubbing surface
was differently configured but with the same obvious purpose.

The water is apparently diverted from the ingenious irrigation/aqueduct system that is ubiquitous through this region. Once we were alert to it, we were constantly aware of culverts and gutters and pipes, often equipped at strategic points with very simple (often just a piece of wood) levers which allowed water be switched from this pathway to that. Here a simple switch would move water to fill up this cistern, and nearby a pail or a bottle could be filled with cool potable water.
While I was quite sure I'd figured out what these facilities were for, I was pleased to have my guess confirmed by this hard-working woman, apparently quite content to be washing her laundry and happy to pose for this photograph. This "laundromat" has more features than the other, with separate tubs and what looks like easier access to clean rinsing water.

And it's covered, which would be a welcome feature on the rainy days when you really need to get that piri-piri sauce out of your husband's best shirt so that he looks decent at the dinner with your visiting cousin tomorrow night . . .

In fact, while I'm hardly going to wax nostalgic about the prospect of washing clothes by hand, I can see the communal aspect of this making the task easier in comparison to my Grandmother struggling through load after load at home with only crying babies for company.
I suspect the sunny climate helps a bit as well, and I can imagine that, in the past at least, clothes might be laid out somewhere nearby for the sun to bleach out stains.
Another benefit of the communal aspect is that, with the water diverted from a nearby river and, presumably, the drained and dirty water eventually returning to the same river after being filtered through surrounding soil, the launderers might be more conscious about what their cleaning products do to their drinking water. We were certainly impressed by the cleanliness of all the streams and rivers we walked along which, even in their very slowly-moving backwaters, showed no obvious influence of the slime-encouraging phosphates -- this is only a superficial impression, of course, and I hesitate to generalize from such anecdotal evidence, but I suspect we'd all be reading laundry-product labels more carefully if we knew how quickly they could end up in our drinking water.
And, of course, people are much more practical about what they wear when they know that they have to wash their clothes by hand. We saw this "style" on 80 or 90% of the women in the villages during the daytime. Very practical. Probably quite comfortable. I could have picked one up at one of the travelling market days. I passed. . . .

What do you think? If you had to wash all your clothes by hand, could you be persuaded to adopt this practical garb? And perhaps you could explain to me the mystery of the tights worn in 30 degree weather, weather that is at least acknowledged by the hat and the short sleeves. . . Or perhaps, instead, you'd like to tell me a family laundry anecdote. . . or what items, if any, you like to dry on a line . . . . I'll check back later. Meanwhile, my daughter and I are off to get pedicures, do a little shopping, have a mom-and-daughter lunch. Grandad/Pater will be at the beach with Nola. Have a lovely day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

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Rainbow Knit Dresses: In for Fall??

My good blogging friend, IndigoAlison, commented on an earlier post that she sometimes wishes good children's clothes could be sized up for adults. Bet she'd pass, though, on a rainbow- coloured handknit wool dress -- but look Alison, it's got stripes, you love stripes, right?

Luckily for Alison, I won't be making her a gift version of this anytime soon. This wee dress was made out of yarn left over from this project from the Tara Froseth pattern Little Sister's Dress .

But Nola doesn't care about that. She just loves the duck button.
(By the way, she now has a full repertoire of animal sounds. Her answer to "What does the frog say?" is the most delightful "Bobbit, bobbit," any Nana has ever bragged about, only topped by the whimsical way she meows, delicately, for "What does the cat say?")

Now that I've charmed you with ducks and dresses and granddaughters, might I whine a wee bit. I'm finding it a bit tough to post these days. Partly that's because we've got an amusing wee person and her ever-so-well-raised-by-clearly-superior-parents mother staying with us this week and the temperatures in this third straight week of sunny skies are more conducive to beach and hammock than to word-processing. But it's partly also, my shallow, approval-seeking self admits, due to low numbers reported by my Statcounter. I'm blabbing and blabbing away and people are tiptoeing by, avoiding the boring blather . . . at least, that's what my sensitive, insecure blogging self wonders. Really, I suspect, many of you are enjoying or grappling with the summer's irregular schedule and not getting to your blog-reading. My own Google Reader has been sadly neglected.

But I'm curious to hear from other bloggers: Do you find a dip in the stats through July? Does it bother you? Do you respond by posting less since those words are rather wasted anyway and blog material is not to be squandered?

And if your numbers have soared, I'm not sure if I should ask you to keep that a secret and leave me my illusions, or if I'll beg you to share some tips to keep the summer readers.

For now, though, I'm closing up my Netbook and heading outside. First a good run, but then the choices are walking to the park with Nola or taking her to the beach to look for crabs (since she's arrived, her vocabulary has stretched: crab, beach, boat, barnacle, rock, stone, seaweed, ocean, house, Lily (the dog visiting next door) . . . and on, and on . . . )

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

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Monday, July 19, 2010

In the Garden

My garden isn't at its best in July. It's a month when I tend to sit back and watch how plants "duke it out" with the dry weather. Partly for environmental reasons, partly from laziness, I put a sprinkler out only where it's desperately needed; most of what's in my garden now is either a plant that needs little water or it's one that's developed long roots over the years (my roses, for example, get watered only once a week at max., but they seem to manage on that, presumably because their roots have wandered over to the neighbours looking for water!) And actually, quite a few surprise me by putting on a decent show with very little water. The oakleaf hydrangea sprawling across the concrete pavers in my side garden is one example, getting a drink only once a week, maybe twice if the temperature goes above 25 for a few days.
The eryngium pictured above gets even less, only catching the occasional drift of moisture from a sprinkler set up nearby. I never water it for its own self, yet look how pretty! I'm so very partial to a steely blue.

The most spectacular xeric flower just has to be the Romneya coulteri. Gravelly soil, lots of sun, and, for water, the sound of the pond fountain nearby, and this one performs and performs.
And as they say of certain models, it loves the camera.

Despite the lack of watering, my garden still looks quite green -- the bamboo helps as do the banks of roses everywhere, but there are other smaller plants that contribute interesting texture as well as verdancy. The hellebores, for example. Isn't this a handsome leaf?!

I also love the leaves on this Rosa glauca, but for their glaucous colour rather than for their shape -- I think every garden should have one of these easy-care, all-purpose beauties. Their flowers are such a delicately pretty size and shade of pink, the leaves such a cooling tone, and the hips that are already beginning to form provide welcome fall colour and food for the birds.It's the only rose I have that isn't noticeably scented, which tells you how much I admire its other attributes.
This climber, Awakening, is better in the scent department, being a sport of the perennial faavourite New Dawn, and it's very pleased that we put the pergola nearby for it to sprawl on.And Darlow's Enigma, nearby, puts out these fabulous bundles of scented blooms for months, climbing and sprawling tens of metres to decorate the neighbourhood. Across the furthest fence, it's echoed by a neighbour's magnificent Kiftsgate rose that splashes huge white bouquets at least two storeys up the cedar and fir trees.
Back on the ground, this simple daylily stalwartly produces a bloom or two each day, reminding me of a laying chicken in its faithful schedule. The clump is spreading slightly each year, though, and there are more eggs in the daily basket than there were last year, and I hope there will be more next summer again. That's the gardener's way, isn't it, always hoping forward, planning and imagining future gardens while remembering earlier ones?
I'm heading out into mine now with my morning cuppa for a few quiet moments before our little visitor wakes up. What are your plans for the day? Perhaps you'll commune with a plant or two as well . . .