future me

Monday, December 31, 2007

the sunrise was spectacular yesterday morning

Well here it is the last day of 2007. I've been so preoccupied it's snuck up on me. I have lists of resolutions to make, to categorise and organize - perhaps by month or date (by when). I love a new year. I love a new day, so you can imagine how thrilling an entire brand new year can be. A chance to rewrite the current story, to clean the slate, a fresh start, to fine tune & tinker with me & my life. It seems that I live in a perpetual state of mild to medium dissatisfaction, I've always been this way. A mostly happy and contented kind of unrest, of always wanting to improve and to make things better and thankfully I have the optimistic and ever hopeful personality that makes the whole process very satisfying and fun in a compulsive, kind of, way.

Along with my neat (black ink, fine point penmanship) notes, lists, to-dos and goals in my brand new beautiful red Moleskine daily journal I plan to also organize and record my hopes and dreams, goals & wishes in a letter to myself and send it off at this site (a site my nephew Michael shared with me). Dear future me ... you set the date out into the future and on that date, your letter will be emailed back to you. In the meantime I suspect that you'll forget that you ever sent it. And best of all ... I have this blog - a daily written and visual record of my journey. Smile.


Sunday, December 30, 2007


More snow here yesterday and the temperatures have been fairly mild. When I let les chiens out into their yard early this morning the sky was filled with stars and the only sounds were the far away noises of snow ploughs and the constant dripping of melting snow.

Yup it's that dog again. I've been noticing, gradually, lately, I think, in that half steeped in denial way that Jake's neck seems swollen, a bit. This morning I came down into the kitchen to pour my first cup of coffee and found him lying in his usual favourite place in front of the door. A place he's always preferred to sleep at night, jammed right up against it and I've always believed he sleeps there because he's protecting us from anyone coming in. If anyone enters this house he wants to be the first to know. I said good morning to him and began our morning patting session, combined with a little doggie massage and I felt a large lump on his neck, or at least I thought I felt a lump (this is where the possible steeped in denial comes in - I didn't apply much pressure because I don't really want to feel a lump or swollen glands or anything for that matter). Needless to say I freaked out, instantly plummeting to that big, bad, worst case scenario place. That was awhile ago. Now he's curled up on the sofa beside me, Bleet tucked in beside him, I'm on my second cup of coffee and I've talked myself down from that place. I've reminded myself that presently he's as hungry as a horse (that's a weird expression), he's running, jumping up with his front paws on the counters and bucking and galloping through snow on our walks like a young pony. He's not showing any ongoing signs of failing health. I do believe the poop fest of November was likely a bacterial thing and the awful sickness of a few days ago really did seem to be a stomach digestion thing.

I'm afraid this is the drill when you live with senior animals, when they've already blown by their life expectancy in a cloud of exuberant health, and when it feels like you love them a little bit more than life itself. You're walking, a lot of the time, on eggshells. Every little thing, you wonder is this it? Is this the beginning of the end.

Bear with me. When I sit down each morning at my laptop with my coffee I write about what's on my mind, and lately ... he's on my mind. This blog is a huge comfort to me, it's such a comfort that I have this written and visual record of our life since July.

There are snow ploughs outside on our street, there's swing music on CBC radio, the fire's crackling and it's Sunday. The best day. I'm making a full on roast chicken dinner for us today with stuffing (bread, sausage, celery, raisins, pecans & summer savoury) gravy and lots of vegetables. We'll go out for our walks before the next round of snow arrives, the forecast says 20-25 more cms and blowing for tomorrow. I'm going to put fresh flannel sheets on my bed with the help of kittens, and I'll begin preparing my office for painting (moving everything out into the hallway)- just the trim and the floor, the walls are already done. And I'll try and remind myself that all that really matters ... is this moment ... now.

all the moments

Saturday, December 29, 2007

my best friend Jake

I've run the gamut of emotions these last few days. First shock and sadness, grief and worry, thinking my soul mate dog was suddenly dying and being told just that by the vet we went to see Thursday night. Then onto relief, happiness and joy (pure absolute joy) in the early hours of Saturday when I realized that he was feeling better, that he seemed back to his normal self. As yesterday progressed and we went about our daily routine, our long walks (we walked but I felt like skipping and swinging my arms and singing loudly my dog's OK, my dog's OK) at the beach and down the cottage lane, our trip in the car to do errands and then all of us just hanging around in the living room close to the fire, relaxing, I eventually became sure that it was true... I could stop holding my breath. He isn't gravely ill, he isn't dying. Last April after three trips in a row (Sat. Sun. & Mon) to our regular vet and a battery of tests & xrays, because of very similar weird & sudden symptoms, I was told, the vet's best guess, that he likely had a week to live - Hemangiosarcoma - a deadly form of blood based cancer that by the time the symptoms show up - the dog is usually near death. Like a very hard kick in the stomach.

All this to say we've been down this road before. And this morning I still feel joy & happiness, I still feel thrilled. Thrilled that he's out in the kitchen, as I type this, barking at me to let him clean off the cat food dishes, that he's jumped up on the kitchen counter, grabbed an empty cat food can and licked it clean. That he's still my devilish, goofy, kind and gentle, always hungry Noodle dog -Jake. This morning mixed in with all that joy, relief and happiness is a tiny bit of resignation. A tiny bit of crystal clear realism. He's 13, that day's a coming, and there's absolutely no way that you can ever really prepare yourself for it ... except I guess, to make sure to treasure every single moment that you can still put your face in their neck and smell them, that you can still stare into their eyes and thank them for the years and years of pure love and companionship, and to treasure every moment that they're still here with us.

I honestly didn't mean to write a sad post this morning. I'm not sad this morning, but the thoughts of saying goodbye to this dog, to Jake, makes me feel like I'll surely die of sadness.

and not to be forgotten Miss Winnie Dixon, she'll turn 9 next month

too close for comfort

Friday, December 28, 2007

I love that dog - Jake and me

Yesterday afternoon, around 4 pm Jake suddenly became very sick, it seemed instantaneous. His face looked dazed, his belly swollen, he could barely walk and the biggest clue that something was terribly wrong - he was totally disinterested in food. Minutes before he had been jumping up with his front paws on the counter so he could check things out, see if I had left any food items on the counter close enough that he could drag them onto the floor - and chow down. We walked at noon at the golf course and Debbie, Winnie Dixon, Maggy Sue and I could barely keep up to him, he was trotting along at a good clip the entire hour long walk. He was his normal energetic, filled with life, always hungry, dog and in an instant all that had changed. And I confess, I totally panicked - he just was SO sick looking. It was 10 past 4 and would be getting dark by the time we could get to our regular vet 45 minutes away (and I do avoid driving in the dark, although I was mustering my courage) I decided I'd go and I'd just drive slowly, at my own pace, and pullover if need be to let the speed demons go by me. A winter storm advisory was also in effect and blowing snow was supposed to begin at any time.

We skipped the idea of going to our regular vet a distance away and drove up the hill to the new vet. We were there an hour, another bad experience and more blunt conversations about cancer and tumours and likely filled with - yadayadyada. He's 13, I'm sure maybe he does have cancer, they told me the same thing at our regular vet when a very similar sickness struck him just as suddenly, nearly a year ago. But you couldn't convince me yesterday that this sudden weird sickness was cancer related - I was convinced that it was about something that he'd eaten - I felt sure that it was a digestive something going on, maybe terrible indigestion or bad gas from eating a bit of a toxic decomposing bunny or bunny poop (he's terrible for snuffing out and snarfing down dangerous delicacies while out on our walks). Winnie and I said a prayer and I gathered up some blankets and we all slept downstairs last night, on the living room floor, all three of us Jake, Winnie Dixon and me, curled up on various dog beds, with blankets, and a fire going. I had been crying for hours, I was afraid that he might be dying and I felt exhausted and scared and unable to sleep so I took and ativan 1mg (I have a small supply for nights just like this or for the odd scary dentist appt. and they work like a charm). Oliver curled up on my belly, Jake and Winnie beside me and both snoring peacefully and I slept ... I slept really well.

Skip to this morning - he's fine, he's fine, he cleaned the cat food dishes this morning and barked at me to give him more please. Sweetie Noodle dog your every wish is my command. It's another new day and my Noodle is better and back to his normal self. Thank you God.

Jake yesterday crossing the ice

11:00am we're recently back from our big normal beach walk, three girls and four dogs down snowy lanes and across snowy fields and pastures. He ran, he sniffed, he ate snow, he made big snowy dog angels and he begged for cookies - he's fine. Big deep sigh. No more swollen belly, no more glazed dazed look in his eyes, no more talk of dying with cancer.

I had a big breakfast of home made fish cakes, dill seasoned potato and smoked fish and coated with cornmeal, a sunny side up fried egg on the side and a huge blob of Harry's spicy zucchini chutney. Heavenly. My ativan/grief hangover is finally abating and I just made a big pot of chicken & dumplings (a favourite comfort food) and we're all hanging out in the living room, close to the fire. Today's mostly a research today. My next project from customer No. Uno is to knock myself off again with a line of "cute" baby/children's photo frames and I'm moved my laptop down here with us. We'll all go out again this afternoon, I'll run a few errands (post office and grocery store) and Winnie & Jake will sit patiently in the car and wait for me and then we'll head down to the point for another long walk in the snow.

around the next corner

Thursday, December 27, 2007

our beach Christmas 2005

taken at the top of the small red clay cliff, out on the point of land that juts into the harbour, where the lighthouse is. Oliver's sitting here in his little Buddha fashion on my desk, I'm listening to radio Prague, my bath is pouring and I'm enjoying my first cup of coffee.

I was thinking yesterday about how different this Christmas season has been and has felt and remembering that the last two Decembers I was dealing with the slow but steady decline of two of my elderly pets. First in 2005 it was wise Ernst, tabby cat extraordinaire and then last December Emma Jane, my beautiful golden girl. The last two Decembers were months of aching sadness, sleepless nights, and feeling very alone with my grief. A month spent gradually mustering the courage and strength to make the ultimate decision to end a life. The most difficult decision I'll ever make. I said goodbye to Ernst on December 31st and then Emma on December 22 the following year. Christmas an already sad & lonely time had been tainted.

So this Christmas, by comparison, has been amazingly light, cheery - a breeze. Leading up to last Christmas I felt desperate with despair, I felt lonely and sorry for myself. I had no one to give me a hug, to kiss my forehead and tell me things would be OK. I felt tired and exhausted from being alone, of having to deal with everything always by myself. This year thankfully, one year later, my life feels completely different. My business is flourishing, my brood of pets -my family, are all happy and healthy and my independent and self reliant spirit is back in full strength. I mostly feel hopeful and optimistic, and when I don't, I try and remind myself that the one thing that I've really learned these last few years of my life is ... that you just never know what's around the next corner in life. And in my life, lately, good things have often been just around the next corner.

There's a big winter storm a brewing here, a forecast of 25 cms of snow beginning after lunch today.

Em and Carol Christmas 2005

merry & bright

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

my little twinkling faux tree

Well yesterday, Christmas day, seemed as near perfect a day, as a day could be. Spent the morning puttering around relaxing with the gang of animals that share this house, humming Christmas carols, making mince tarts, talking with my one and only sister for a bit, and last minute final touches & wrapping of a handmade gift I was taking with me when I ventured out for Christmas dinner. The weather was mild and precipitation free making for easy driving for all the revellers on the road. I spent an afternoon smiling and laughing, my cheeks sore at the end of it, eating a fantastic huge turkey dinner with all the trimmings plus more. It really was perfect. Perfect in every way ... and I'm a girl who loves perfect.

The wee early hours of Christmas morn were spent cozy and tucked in on my big cushy sofa. Coffee in hand, snoring dogs and curled up cats all around me, a fire crackling, and carols playing on the radio as I opened my gifts from away. Shoe boxes replacing the traditional stocking, filled with presents. Now if I'd been thinking I would've dug out my family stocking, felt appliqued and embroidered, with a jingle bell and lovingly made by my grandmother Flo years and years ago. I could have stuffed all these tissue wrapped treasured into my stocking and really gilded my own holiday lily ... maybe next year.

I received an array of thoughtful and practical (I do love practical) items and when all was said and done these three things seem to represent my favourite things about this Christmas.

My Aunt Sally, my mother's sister (who married my father's brother, so a true double aunt and uncle) sent in her package of goodies, two sterling teaspoons with our monogram SAB. The original owner was my great grandmother on my fathers side whose name was Sarah Allison Borden, then passed on to Sally A Black and now on to me Susan A Black. These delicate silver spoons have been stirring tea and coffee in my family for years and years and now they will remind me of family, and of history and tradition.

Another gift from Sally, this one made me cry, a notebook turned cookbook recipe book belonging to my grandmother Flo. Signed and dated 1928, she would've been 27 and just recently married. In her late twenties, she married late for that day and age, and I'm sure she had been almost written off as an old maid. She'd been busy, attending art college, studying jewellery design in New York city at Pratt Institute and eventually teaching Applied Arts at Mount Allison (formerly The Ladies College). She was an amazing woman and was, still is, an incredible influence on me and my life and I treasure having something that seems a part of her. A notebook filled with her handwriting, pages that she turned ... This gift to me represents love ... I always knew that I was loved by Flo and I did love her also, completely.

And a jar of my favourite, unusual carrot cake jam from my sister Sandra. A blend of pineapple and carrot and spiced with ginger and cloves - homemade and bought at a local gift and craft fair. This gift represents comfort and security. What's more comforting then homemade jam on buttered toast?

my most favourite Christmas card, a pop up card
filled with colour, whimsy, happiness and dogs


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

a Christmas bouquet

Flowers dropped off yesterday along with homemade food gifts of fish cakes and baked beans, zucchini chutney and treats for the cats and dogs from BFF Harry and his partner Joe. This morning I'll curl up in the living room and have my morning coffee with my gang of cats and dogs. With chorale music on CBC radio, we'll sit by the light of my little Christmas tree and the crackling fire will warm us all ... a nice change from our usual morning routine.

11:00 am update. Had a lovely long walk early this morning, down the cliff and onto the beach and then through seaside pastures, with our friends Debbie and Maggy Sue (golden retriever). Home to stoke the fires and to make a big pot of squash, brown rice and beef dog food for les chiens- my dogs, especially Miss Dixon, LOVE squash. 6 little mincemeat tarts in the oven pour moi, a newly discovered very adult taste, mincemeat is and I do believe I'm making up for lost years. A tart warmed in the oven, with a small blob of hard sauce and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream - heaven ! Puttering this Christmas morning, all the while listening to amazing traditional Christmas music on CBC radio. And now am just about to jump in the bath and get doodied up a bit for Christmas dinner and Christmas cheer at Carol & Gary's home. I think this is shaping up to be one of the nicest holidays that I can remember.

happy holidays

Monday, December 24, 2007

Peace on earth .... and goodwill to all living things.

I wish everyone a happy holiday season filled with family and friends
and lots of good cheer.

Well its finally Christmas Eve and all through our house many creatures are stirring including at least one little mouse. Though Christmas is practically a non event here at 29 Black Street I feel very content and happy this Christmas Eve morn. December has been a busy month at Susan Black Design (creatively satisfying and lucrative - a perfect combination), my fire wood is all in and stacked beautifully, my family of animals are all healthy and happy, my little list of fall/winter things to fret about has all been crossed off and I sleep well, snug as a bug, in my nest of flannel and I feel very fortunate to be living my life.

Overnight we've had a wee mild spell, which suits me just fine. The temperature this morning is +10C (lovely) and raining (golashes required for this morning's hike) but it won't last long as it's going to cool off again, just to seasonal (-1C to -4C) which is totally tolerable. It's the arctic deep freeze, wind chill weather (the -10C but the wind makes it feel like -25C = wind chill) that I can't stand. I just checked the 14 day trend at the Weather Network web site and the next 2 weeks are predicted to be above seasonal, the entire stretch.
Big smile!

This illustration is a Christmas card I that I designed for our local animal shelter. Bleet & Winnie Dixon were my models and my inspiration.

snow dogs

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Jake and Winnie Dixon

Em digging for field mice

our winter afternoon walking place - the golf course

It's hilly and sheltered, with lots of wonderful enticing-to-dogs smells and plenty of squirrels chattering and taunting from high up in the trees. The squirrels seem to delight in playing daredevil stunts, rushing down trees and squealing across the open snow to zip up another tree, Winnie Dixon & Maggie hot on their heels. We walk here after lunch in the winter, with my friend Debbie and her three year old Golden Retriever Maggy Sue, Winnie's best girlfriend. It's a lovely reprieve from the cold and bitter winds coming off the water (or off the ice as there is no more open water) on our mornings walks at the beach.

My dogs and I have been walking here, in the winter, for years and years and just last year we introduced Debbie & Maggy to our secret walking spot and it's been great to have the company. Jake, Debbie and I stick mostly to the path while the other two rush through the trees playing partners in crime, in their futile attempts to bag a squirrel. Driving home yesterday afternoon, a 10 minute trip, Winnie's little brown eyes were closing and she was falling asleep sitting up and Jake was stretched out in the back seat. Happy, spent snow dogs. Smile.

Winnie and her best girlfriend Maggy Sue

my studio project Part 1

Saturday, December 22, 2007

disco holly

Hmmmmmmnnnn! My morning java and laptop routine. Many of my blogging cohorts have posted their holiday greetings, thanks for visiting and come back after the new year posts. I've considered a break myself ... but have decided that no official stop in posting is planned. This blog is like my journal and I wouldn't miss a day in my journal, although there might be a day or two when my writing is sparse and concise (for a change). So ... no plans to stop blogging at 29 Black Street over the holidays.

I'm gearing up for the dawn of a New Year so lots to be thinking about, lots of planning and stuff that needs to be said out loud to someone else, to you. I know I have a few of you out there, cheering me on, rooting for my success, commiserating with me when it's appropriate, and extending a cyber hand when I need it. And it means SO much to me and has helped me, along my journey, incredibly.

I have almost a week of design project free-ness (few things to finish up today) and I want, must, need to tackle some major thing in this old house. I'm thinking it must be my office and all work related organization (files, supplies etc...). How fantastic would it be to begin the New Year in a finished beautiful and organized office/studio space that is so crystal clear in my mind and really, very attainable, it's half finished now - the story of so much of my home/house life - begun but not yet finished.

I want (and have wanted) my studio to be a place that I can't wait to be in and am in no hurry to leave, I want a well stocked and organized supply cabinet, I want an extra big table that I can set my sewing machine up on or that I can work on big projects, I want all my reference books and catalogues an arm's length away, and I want great lighting so I can work easily and comfortably at night if need be. I want glossy black floors and creamy white trim. I have a fantastic new (to me) huge teak desk just waiting to be moved in. I have art to hang, rugs to unroll and dog and cat beds to position. BFF Harry will give me a hand with any lifting and schlepping of furniture that needs to be done, and he'll help with installing the shelves that are a must. It's all there, every last perfect detail well thought out in my little brain. I just need to do it.

It's a gift that I need to give myself, because 2008 - well look out - 'cause I think it's going to be a great year!

of dreams and goals ...

Friday, December 21, 2007

a birch tree in my back yard

Of dreams and goals and brand new years. December 21, the days are whooshing by, rushing toward the 25th and I'm I've done most of the Christmas stuff that I'm going to do - which I'm afraid is basically nothing. I have made a giant note to self that if doing things like baking, designing my own Christmas cards and making hand made gifts are really important for me to do, I must begin in October. December has been a really busy month at my little one person design shop. Project after project and a few even overlapping. It's been fantastic and this past week I've had night after night of sound, peaceful, worry free sleeps. None of that staring wide awake at the ceiling at 2am fretting about this and that and things in between, mostly having to do with money or the lack of it.

I'm a girl who loves the New Year, anyone who's been with me and this blog for a time knows that I love to plan and love to make lists. In my head, and often even in reality, I am a big time overachiever, type A (and proud of it) gal, who's got big, huge, well considered and detailed, goals and dreams and with a brand new year, a new slate, an ever optimistic and hopeful attitude, combined with a pinch of courage and strength, well, I do believe I can accomplish anything that suits my fancy. And my fancy's gotta a big list for 2008. I do believe that this year coming will be that banner year (I know I say that every year, but that's where the ever optimistic and hopeful attitude has served me well), The Year, the year that I say goodbye to some old & very tired habits and traits that weigh me down and no longer serve me, the year my business really takes off. Oh I could go on and on.... but we're still 11 days away from the new year I must try and save some of these dreams and goals for later.

I have been SO inspired by many of the wonderful creative blogs that I visit on a daily basis. Who knew that there were so many women out there doing what I'm doing, women who have their own creative businesses from their homes, many selling their wares on Etsy (another 2008 goal of mine) and my life has been inspired and enriched by all of them. I feel, suddenly, like I have this wonderful, rich, creative community here at my desk, at my laptop in my office that looks over the frozen harbour, in my little seaside village here in Nova Scotia. Which is amazing and I am truly grateful. So ... thank you to all of you out there in blog land.

shopping - a bit of a rant

Thursday, December 20, 2007

branches in sunlight in a chocolate room

Phew! Thank God that venture out into the "real" (?) world is over. As I trudged through the mall yesterday, dodging frazzled shoppers pushing carts laden with soon-to-be gifts under the tree, I was quite quickly reminded that - I don't really shop. I've lost both the desire to and the skill to. After years of living mostly on the cheap and narrow, those few extravagances that I need to splurge on (art and office supplies, boots and shoes ...) are ordered online, a once a year trip to a gigantic mall is a very sad reminder of what a consumer society we are. We're just all about the stuff - it's actually quite disgusting when you're not used to being in it. We buy, buy, buy. Buy to heal ourselves, we eat to heal ourselves, we consume to heal ourselves. To heal ourselves from our terribly empty & unconscious lives. Thank God that I escaped to rural Nova Scotia.

I'm so glad that I live in my little village where the lack of retail temptations has gradually cured me of that consumer obsession to shop (I too was a die hard shopper back when I lived in Toronto and worked at Chatelaine, when labels and brands seemed very important). That combined with my very limited funds, I've learned (often the hard way) how to get by with very little. My lifestyle is such that I don't need to get all dolled up to go to work, I work at home. The dress code here at 29 Black Street is casual casual and most days I'm going from drawing at my desk to tromping around in pastures or climbing down red mud cliffs. I hardly ever pay full retail for anything- I've become for the most part a second hand clothing shopper - a Frenchy's maven. A yard sale peruser, a library fanatic (for books and for movies), a second hand book store shopper, I even barter as much as I can in my design business. I'll design (a business card, signage, brochures...) trading for services (massages or aestheticians services even tree trimming and care).

When I do buy things, like yesterday, I do feel a little guilty and it makes me feel a little worried. I guess I'm just not used to it. Being self-employed, I've learned the hard way you need to prepare for the future, for the famine that inevitably comes with the feast or famine lifestyle that comes with being self employed. Although it's looking like 2008 may be mostly feast and feast. How nice would that be!

My favourite splurge gift-to-self yesterday was a beautiful small red Moleskin 2008 page a day planner because I believe that 2008 is going to be a year of amazing change, growth and success and I need a beautiful little book to keep track of it all.

vas tu au Mall ?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

looking inland along our beach yesterday afternoon 4pm

I just scanned and emailed out another bunch of thumbnail drawings - this time home decor mirrors that continue the same motifs of a recent grouping of photo frames. Had an email yesterday from K. at new big fish company (re: jewellery project) telling me that I had sent her so many wonderful ideas that she, at first, felt overwhelmed by them - too difficult to choose. Big smile. Her task to use my ideas and present to those above her that make the big decisions, sale-able individual marketing programs (different price points, suggested merchandising, packaging and so on) for the different groupings of jewellery. I asked her if it was at all possible, I would love to have some further direction before the Christmas break so that I can have a project to work on between Christmas and New Year's - Mama's gotta bring home the bacon for those sweet dogs & cats and she likes to have a steady stream of bacon comin' in.

I'm off on a shopping day today. Off with a friend to Atlantic Canada's largest shopping mall - Champlain Place. A once a year tradition. I'll be happily trapped in a car with an excellent driver for an hour there and back and we'll gab and get caught up (this is a friend that I don't see often). We'll synchronize our watches upon arrival and off we'll go in different directions with a few hours of purposeful shopping ahead of us. I'm shopping pour moi - I've become a terribly frugal person, sometimes even a little too frugal and money's always tight but this Christmas with several big fat invoices out there and cheques soon to follow, I've decided to treat myself to a few things. Here's my list.

- a new Cavallini wall calender from Chapter's Book Store
- a frosty Frappucino from Starbucks while browsing at Chapter's.
- some bubble bath & hand cream from the Body Shop
- new socks (and many pairs) from Walmart, inexpensive bulk buying.
- maybe one really nice pair of socks from Roots - I'll have a look
- and a cheapo clock radio with a CD feature for listening to Books on CD in bed
- new NYC (cheap) make up from Shopper's Drugmart

I'm hoping that we'll be home again before dark. Pouring my bath and I must go make my list ...and then I'll be checking it twice.

looking out into the Northumberland Strait

more grumbling

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

wreath detail 4pm sunlight

Another photo of the wreath by my front door. Basked in that warm, golden, low in the sky, 4pm winter (actually it's still autumn until Saturday) light. I was going to post another photo (I've added it at the end of this entry) which I've titled snow. A beautiful landscape of layered whiteness taken a few weeks ago when the snow wasn't quite as deep and crunchy in the pastures where we walk and the temperatures were just cold - not frigid and bitter. Sigh.

I let Winnie and Jake out to pee in their fenced in yard just past 5am this morning and the sky was clear and filled with stars and my sun porch (just off my living room, it's door leading to the dog's yard) windows are completely covered with curtains of frosty ice crystals. My sun porch is now filled with rows and rows of stacked fire wood because (yeah!) the wood piling fairy, Mathew, has arrived and completed his yearly magic . And ... it's cold out there, so what's new it seems? the weather network's site says -9C (with wind chill) feels like -18C - boo hiss! yada yada yada. Will this blog become a broken record of temperature and wind chill reports? Is this the new story of my life? Coldness. Sadface :-(

I think this is what makes winter seem long. Not the darkness at 5pm, not the snow and chilly weather, but the bone chilling, cheek chapping, bitter, cold, deep freeze that makes you not want to go outside. The girls I walk with have been teasing me, this is a side of me they've never seen. This grumbling, complaining and cursing under my breath Little Miss Negative. Gone is the girl who's usually the one pointing out hawks or bald eagles, rainbows or beautiful cloud formations, or how the just risen sunlight is playing on the golden pastures or on the frolicking golden retrievers - well she's gone. Now, I can barely see out of my wrapped up & hooded, head banded, toqued head to appreciate the beautiful landscape where I walk each day. grumble, grumble.

snow - the perfect amount

a winter party

Monday, December 17, 2007

cottage lane at 4pm one day last week

High winds, rain and mild temperatures this morning - much of Canada and the US were blasted by a big ol' winter storm yesterday and last night. We here in Nova Scotia, and especially us on the warm waters of the Northumberland Strait, did not get the heavy snowfall. Thank goodness - this winter, and technically it is still Autumn until Saturday, sucks big time. Way, way too cold for me and almost too cold for walking dogs. Our harbour is already frozen - an unheard of occurrence ... well I guess it did happen in the days of old but the last two winters here, which in my books were perfection, were both freakishly mild and the harbour never did completely freeze. The last two Christmas mornings I walked the dogs with a hooded sweatshirt on, I didn't even need a proper coat. This year already, and technically it is still Autumn until Saturday!!, it feels like we're walking in Antarctica - bitter cold and blowing wind chill squalls of snow whipping across the pastures. It's horriblé !!! I'm going to need an attitude adjustment or I think it's going to be a very long winter.

This morning it's a balmy +3 C so the weather Gods have thrown me a little temporary bone and dammit, I'll be walking in the rain this morning with those doggies enjoying this short lived reprieve, for later today the temperature will once again plummet, well into the minuses.

Yesterday afternoon we had a surprise birthday party for my friend Carol. Carol, who I've been walking with nearly ever morning for (we can't remember how many) years now, Carol who loves my dogs like they were her own and who is their official Auntie Carol and legal guardian, should anything ever happen to me. Eight of us, family and friends, just appeared at her house at 2pm, laden down with gourmet finger foods, gifts, balloons and a dark chocolate truffle cake decorated with fresh raspberries and blackberries, lovingly prepared by great cook and baker BFF Harry. It was my plan, my scheme to throw her this Sunday afternoon surprise, and really quite out of my normal, reclusive, fairly self absorbed comfort zone. But oh! how fun it was. She was totally surprised, totally thrilled and totally tickled by the whole event. She loved all her gifts and you could tell she felt very loved and special- which of course was the ultimate desired reaction. I returned home, just before the nasty weather began, feeling that warm satisfied feeling that you get from doing something kind and thoughtful for someone else. A reminder for me, to try and acquire that feeling a little more often in my life.

mouse in the house

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gussie Gus, Marvin or Mr. Mr. asleep on the chair in my bedroom

He's taking a much needed break from his job of flushing little mice out of the cracks, crevices and walls of this old house. Gus has been working the back shift lately, dusk til dawn. While the rest of us (cats- Bleet, Lulu, & Oliver and dogs -Winnie Dixon & Jake) are all ensconced in various beds in the cozy warm second floor of this house, Gussie is prowling the main floor. If I have to get up in the night to let the Noodle dog out to take care of some business, as we pass through the living room we often will spy Gus, all tucked in upon himself, staring diligently at a space in the drywall. Sometimes we'll awaken from our dreamy sleep because of a crash or bang coming from the kitchen or laundry room and Oliver will leap off the bed and thud down the stairs two at a time, realizing that Gussie may need his help. The mouse count is up to 4 now - 3 dead and 1 saved and let go outside "run free little mouse go find your scarf & mitts".

It seems everyone that I talk to has a mouse in the house story these days, maybe it's this cold & bitter weather we're having (?) and I did notice Friday, at the hardware store, a gigantic display of various mouse torture, killing and (a few more humane) deterrent type apparatuses (some kind of sound machine that mice don't like). Friends and people I know are setting traps in their attics & basements. My neighbour Florence was behind me in line at the hardware store, buying a mouse trap. She told me she'd lived in that house for 23 years and she'd just had her first mouse sighting - it scurried across her kitchen floor while she was cooking and she totally freaked (??). She asked me to explain the instructions on the back of the trap package while we were standing there, and I was just "Hey! sorry Florence, talk to the hand ! please ! I don't want to know anything about that killing machine, ask Reg he'll explain it to you".

I prefer to believe that I'm living some kind of symbiotic relationship with the creatures, teeny and small, that live in this house at 29 Black St. Spiders get gently moved to large tropical houseplants, in the summer any bugs (earwigs, beetles, wasp's or ants etc.) that mistakenly wander inside or are brought in, accidentally, by me on cut flowers or freshly hung out laundry are trapped, with my fool proof drinking-glass-postcard-method, and placed outside again. I just have no interest in killing something just because I've decided that I don't like it. I'm not crazy about the cats killing mice but I can kind of rationalize that away - it's nature for them, it's not me playing God with their little mouse lives, and I do take great delight when I arrive on the scene, with my yogurt container, in time to save one. If it were rats or squirrels (that can and do chew wires and stuff) I might be more concerned, -but even then I know I would go down every humane avenue available to me.

Word's probably going to get out around the village and all the little mice will be packing up their troubles and movin' over here to 29 Black Street.

Lady Baltimore

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lady Baltimore back when there was still green in the garden

I found Lady Baltimore dead on my front porch late yesterday afternoon. I would say without a doubt, a cat kill. I had been looking for her all day. She has been a fixture at my bird feeders all day every day since November 17th. I've made sure she has had a constant supply of big fat red grapes, her favourite, to go along with the suet, peanut butter and black sunflower seeds that would keep her fat & healthy through our long Nova Scotia winter. Yesterday morning, before 7:30 am, when les chiens and I were getting ready for our walk I noticed that she wasn't at the feeders (she's usually up by then and having her breakfast). Throughout the day I continued to look for her and I kept thinking that it was strange that she hadn't yet appeared and I wondered if something had happened to her. According to The Nova Scotia Museum only 50% of Baltimore Orioles that stay in Nova Scotia for the winter survive and I had noticed that the feathers on her head were looking a little messy, mangy - not smoothed and sleek like a healthy bird. I was worried that she had died a natural death, of a bird illness or death from our cold & bitter weather.

She has not missed a day at Black Street since that day in mid November when I first noticed her and her beautiful bright orange breast. I had become very attached to her. At noon, while I waited for Helen to pick me up for our lunch date, I cleaned & swept the light dusting of snow off the porch and I know that her little body was not there then. When Helen dropped me off a few hours later Bleet was sitting on the front porch - I do remember that, because he skittishly ran away and I had to call him to come in.

Later at 4pm I had just returned with the dogs from our afternoon car ride and walk, I put the dogs in the house and came back outside to fill all the feeders and I gazed up into my tall blue spruce trees, a sheltered safe place that she liked to hang out, hoping to spy her. As I was going back into the house I noticed something, lying on my freshly swept wooden porch, out of the corner of my left eye. It was Lady Baltimore.

I still had two drawings I had to finish, scan and email off to customer No. Uno and I could barely see to draw I cried so hard. I cried and cried and cried. I felt devastated. And of course most of all because I wondered if the culprit was big fat Bleet, had I inadvertently lured her with fat red grapes to an untimely death, by cat. Throughout last evening I tried to convince myself that maybe she wasn't really all that healthy, and that had made her an easier target or maybe it wasn't Bleet after all, who did the horrible deed, maybe it was the white and grey stray tom cat with the crooked ear that's been prowling around the yard lately. Or maybe she had died of natural causes and was discovered by a roaming Bleet, picked up, toyed with (as cats are want to do) and then placed on the porch for me - a trophy gift. I wondered why, when literally hundreds of birds visit my feeders each day, why did it have to be Lady Baltimore?

I still feel sad this morning. For nearly a month she was a regular part of my day - I worried and fretted about her, I watched her flit from grapes to suet to sunflowers seeds and back. I watched her squabble with the starlings who would try to boss her out of the way. I looked forward to seeing her every day and I felt SO grateful that she had decided to make her winter home here at 29 Black Street.

snow ness

Friday, December 14, 2007

snow Ness

Up a bit early this morning, trying to make up the few hours lost last evening by going to bed (or to the nest) with kittens and cats and magazines at an ungodly early hour - before 7pm - (sheepish look). I was tired, tired at 3pm and tired at 4pm and by 6:30 I just gave in to myself. I'm quite sure the tiredness was due to my extreme consumption, lately, of bad foods. Gumdrops (left over from failed Holiday Baking), croissants smeared with butter (eek!) (bought from the 50% off rack yesterday), not enough, or maybe not any, fruit and veggies for days and my system was saying. What's up with this ? Let's go to bed! Not good. I've gained 5 lbs in a week or so it seems, and ... this happens every year. It's that pre-Christmas food aholics OMG look at all this yummy bad stuff (chocolates and cookies and chocolate dipped cookies...) I-must-eat-it-all-now thing that happens every December. Sigh.

I'm having lunch out today, with my friend Helen, former village librarian - a high profile friend to have. We'll go to the one and only gig in town and we'll have what we have every time we go for lunch (which is usually once a month or so) - the bacon cheeseburger platter - uh huh, I did say platter. The best hand cut homemade fries, homemade burgers, buttered toasted buns with a side of creamy coleslaw. It's heavenly, it's the best cheeseburger platter that I've ever had and it's right here in our little village. I'll have a fruit yogurt smoothie for breakfast and some carrots sticks and raw cauliflower for dinner to make up for this noon time badness (yeah right :-)

Photos today of my beautiful fat black velvet Nessie (Bleet), a much loved member of this household menagerie, hangin' out in the snow. Anyone who's had more than one cat knows how incredibly different and distinct all their cat personalities are - Nessie's one of those very weird cats (he's anti-social & skittish with people, heaven forbid you have to give him a pill because he turns into a 100lb wild black panther, he has a loud and almost instantaneous purr, and I think he secretly fancies himself a dog since he was reared by retrievers here at Black Street). He's weird in a very good way ...


Thursday, December 13, 2007

December page from my Cavallini 2007 vintage map calender

Cavallini wall calenders have amazingly beautiful prints, printed on heavy cream paper (13 x 19), suitable for framing and they come in a great assortment of subjects. I'm still debating which calender I'll choose for 2008 - which shockingly is just around the corner. I'm thinking that I might get the Butterfly calender or maybe the Japanese Woodblocks ... so hard to choose they are all so beautiful. The wall calenders are available at Chapters/Indigo in Canada and at Barnes & Nobles in the US. Cavallini's entire product line is amazing & lovely.

This morning I'm making a quick trip to town with BFF Harry for groceries - he's driving (yeah!). I do love being a passenger much more than I like being the driver - especially now with snowy roads. We'll gab & chatter the whole way there and back, the time and trip will fly by and we'll both stock up with the remains of our pre-Christmas shopping and likely be home by lunch or shortly after. I'm going to be brief this morning as I still need to make my list. Proper shopping must have a list and I really don't want to forget anything.

Received another job from customer No. Uno yesterday afternoon. I do so love having lots of design work and keeping really busy. And amazingly I've been having worry pas sleeps all week which is lovely. More snow, more cold - wind chill of -25 this morning. Brrrrrrrrr


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nessie (Bleet) enjoying the birds

Today is an in between day. A day that I'm in between projects. I'm not expecting to have further direction on my jewellery project until later in the week and I'm also waiting with bated breath for the gang at No. Uno company to deem my latest batch of thumbnails (madly drawn, shaded, smudged and emailed yesterday afternoon) worthy or not. Val, the woman I work with who gives me all my direction and instruction at No. Uno company, a woman I've worked with for over 5 years, seems to love practically everything that I draw, but alas, hers is not the only opinion that counts - and this latest batch of drawings was being printed out and whisked away to a meeting with the gang to be pitched & promoted, on my behalf, by Val. I can only sit here in Nova Scotia (they're in Boston) cross my fingers and hope that the freelance Gods will shine down on me and my thumbnails.

I've been taping Martha Stewart's show to watch in the evenings with my supper. Her count down to Christmas is in full swing, her make it, bake it, deck it, trim it, DIY fest is on... just to rub a little glitter* in my wounds. Today she's hosting the editor's of Blueprint - my favourite decor magazine (along with Domino), so I'll look forward to curling up on the sofa, ce soir, with my TV tray to watch, while I fend off the marauding gang of pets who will either try to steal my supper (B
leet or Lulu) or will rest their (Jake) snout on the side of the sofa, eyes piercing into my hungry brain, and beg until I cave and share and then Winnie (whose been lying near bye, not begging - always the good dog) will have that raised eyebrows, ears perked up what am I chopped liver? look on her face... so more sharing. It's a nightly event made more dramatic depending on how enticing the fare may be. Gussie & Oliver as of yet, thankfully, do not partake in this nightly harassment.

So, today is kind of like a day off for me. A day that I can choose what to do instead of working on an imposed design deadline. I can choose from my list of 327+ items of things that need to be done, want to be done or should be done. Oh the pressure ... oh how fun. Think I'll go grab another cup of java, pour my smelly Lush bubble bath and make a list ...

*speaking of glitter. Have you seen Martha's collection of craft supplies at Michaels which includes the most amazing collection of very fine glitter in a myriad of beautiful colours. I remember watching an episode years ago where she had a cheap plastic set of children's tiny zoo/jungle animals and she glittered them - turning them from cheap plastic nothingness into spectacular holiday decorations ... that Martha.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

another Christmas card design from the illustration archives

Milder temperatures, thankfully, today and according to the weather site the 14 day trend is for normal (0 to -4) temperatures and above . Makes me happy. Lots of little projects on the go this week. Currently working on another, more historic, decorative, home decor-ish line of wood & metal photo frames for No. Uno customer and waiting for further direction from new big fish company re: my first line of jewellery designs for them. 5 pages of thumbnails sent out and initial feedback is that they love, love everything, all my drawings. Smile. I love them too (which is always nice and not always the case). Sometimes their wish has to be my command.

I can't believe Christmas is two weeks away and I'm afraid I feel nothing. No enthusiasm, no real holiday spirit to speak of, and worst of all (or maybe it's best of all ?) no real feeling of obligation or guilt or that seasonal wondering is there something wrong with me because I seem bereft, each year, of Holiday Spirit (compared to others anyway, but oh yeah we're not supposed to compare ourselves to others - right).

My Holiday Baking Part 1 fiasco really has put the kibosh on any keenness I might have had for Holiday Baking Parts 2 & 3. Failure is not usually part of my repertoire and come to find out I don't deal with it well at all. I also did not design my own spectacular Christmas cards (which I mean to do every year - I am a designer after all) in time to have them properly printed, addressed and mailed. As I am writing that last sentence I'm realizing that it is that nasty perfectionist person at work again. If my own Christmas cards can't be blow-you-away-beautiful then I don't care to make them. I couldn't possibly be sending out something that I designed unless I myself am blown away by it - a virtually impossible task. And of course it's too late to buy cards that meet with my impeccable design taste here in our little village and I have no immediate plans to bust out to town and it's also too late to order cards from UNICEF or World Wildlife or some other similar organization that myself would approve of. If my attempts at Holiday Baking gift boxes can't be Martha esque. Sweet little wrappers and perfect little Christmas confections ... well what's the point. And with only two weeks left I've realized that ... I've run out of time. Two weeks is not enough time to create the magical, wonderful, beautiful perfect things on my list of what I'd like to be giving. Hence the well I really didn't care anyway attitude. Smirk.

Yesterday I did buy a 2008 day planner and I'm thinking today I might pencil in a few things. September - begin designing fabulous Christmas card and buy cards from non profit organization as a back up. October - make list of gift recipients and dream up one hand made gift per person, cat or dog. November - make gifts and wrap them in a creative recycled & handmade fashion. December - scratch holiday baking, don't sweat it and donate the money I saved to our food bank and animal shelter

wintry weather

Monday, December 10, 2007

Nessie (Bleet) & Jake (Noodle)

It's -22 degrees C this morning - which is very, brrrrr, cold! So cold the back door of my wagon, the dog door, freezes shut and I have to crank the driver's seat all the way down into a reclining position and Jake, who always sits in the back seat, has to crawl into the back by way of this reclined driver's seat causing him great confusion and obstinance. Winnie leaps into the passenger side with her normal exuberance (she took over the passenger side seat her very first car trip with us). It's so cold that once we arrive at our destination and all pile out of the car, les chiens will sometimes hold their paws up one at a time and look at me as if I must be nuts, dragging them out to walk in this ungodly weather. But if we don't have our big long hike then I'll have to deal with restless bored dogs all day which, if your self employed and trying to be productive, is not good. According to all accounts (The Farmer's Almanac, The Globe & Mail and the Canadian Weather Gods) this is supposed to be, for all of Canada, one of the most wintry (cold, cold temps and tons of snow) winters that we've had in years and if December is any indication - that prediction or forecast is bang on. Bummer!

I'm a girl who barely tolerates winter and my ideal would be enough snow down on the ground to keep the ski crowd (downhill & cross country) happy and temperatures cold enough to keep this amount of snow from melting, 0 to -4, and no wind or wind chill please. So ... this arctic like weather is tres horriblé. I must remember this morning to start the car early and let it warm up a bit and to add a few more layers, long john's and undershirts, to my own attire as yesterday morning I was very cold. Brrrrr. I have tried little fleece booties for the dogs but they didn't seem to like them but I may have to give them another try.

I have this book The Golden Compass, unabridged on audio CD from the library to listen to this week. I read this book (the first in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy) years ago and enjoyed it. With all the hoopla of the movie just being released, and listening to a sample of the book being narrated on Writers & Company with Eleanor Wachtel during a two part interview with the author I decided to order the audio CD. I love being read to!


Sunday, December 9, 2007

my failed gumdrop cake

A bit bummed this morning or the best laid plans .... or

planned non-leisure activity + estimated time allowed/needed + unforeseen snags & difficulties x the actual time allowed/needed (which is usually twice as long as estimated) + potential failure factor = disappointment & discouragement = bummed

Holiday Baking Part 1 was a dismal failure. I've included photos of the gumdrop adventure but I will be posting no recipes as this sounded good on paper, but did not nearly meet with my high standards, not as a gumdrop cake gift anyway. You hear these baking types talk about the size of the crumb when referring to cakes. Hey, I'm no baker, but the crumb on this cake, was way big, way bad. I wanted it to be like the fine crumb of really good pound cake, that combined with the little slices of colour from the gumdrops becoming like a stained glass slice of cake, perhaps this is not possible. I remember pound cake at my grandmother Blanche's at Christmas that was smooth and dense and buttery, with a fine, fine crumb and frosted with marzipan which back then I was too young to get. I know what a real pound cake should be like. And as you can see, my oven or my pan caused the cake to brown too much on the outside - leaving a hard and crunchy crust like outer edge - bad. If you examine closely the middle, batter, photo I would hazard a guess that the recipe needed more liquid but as a I said I'm no baker...obviously.

The divinity fudge turned out to be a putrid pale pink divinity soup and all the little green & red maraschino cherry bits sunk to the bottom of the bowl. Green and red mixed together make brown or bad. I have a candy thermometer so I have no excuse except my lack of experience combined with a big ol' whack of impatience, because by this time my finely oiled schedule was all shot to hell. I dribbled a little syrup into a glass of cold water and hey that looked to me like a hard-ish ball, choosing to ignore the temperature reading on my candy thermometer, and deciding instead to declare it broken (?), I began slowly adding the stream of hot syrup to my high peaks of egg whites and ... nothing happened. Not what's supposed to happen. It's supposed to be thick, whipped meringue like pure whiteness that you can blob onto a sheet of waxed paper in little kisses of sugary light white. My plan was to add finely chopped red & green cherries giving these kisses of whipped sugar that festive touch. Should I attempt this recipe again (not) I would thoroughly drain/dry the cherries on a piece of paper towel and not add the combined red + green = brown cherry juice.

So ... I did not get to tackle my tools, paint & supplies cupboard, by 3:30 I was still cleaning up the kitchen and laundry room and it was time for les chiens and I to head back to the beach for our afternoon walk. I did make pizza and it was delicious and I tried for the third time (it has great reviews) to watch The Children of Men and just could not get into it - so said goodnight and retreated to the nest where I had one of those - awake half the night trying to come up with really big and bad things to worry about sleeps.

Thank goodness I awake each morning repaired and undefeated and rarin' to go all over again.

item No.19 (I think)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Chandra & Winnie Dixon

Jake & Winnie Dixon

The Noodle dog - Jake

Housecleaning (really ! I'm serious) and Christmas baking are the only two things on the agenda today. I'm finally, finally going to tackle the laundry rooms cabinets and cupboards. I often will get a hankering to do some tool or paint requiring activity and then I remember that chaotic situation those cabinets are in and I stop myself - first things first. Really, truly, in this head lives a compulsively neat and ordered person just busting to get out. It's like I've subconsciously given my giant master list of to-do's/activities a number, like those little pieces of paper you tear off the machine at the DMV office. And I can't be thinking about sanding and painting my kitchen counter tops (item No. 82 on the list) until I clean & organize my tools, paint and supply cabinet (not exactly sure of it's number but I know it's way before No. 82). I am very methodical in the planning of these activities - so methodical, detailed and micro managed, in fact, that I most often plan myself completely out of the doing part of the activity.

Yesterday was recycling pick up day and I managed to convince myself to part with a humongous cardboard box that was filled with many other neatly flattened cardboard boxes, which I had been diligently saving (? for my next move?) for quite some time and which was taking up an entire corner of that room. I also had two lawn & garden size (huge) blue bags (grabbed the wrong package at the grocery store) filled with recyclables that went curb side as well - freeing up a tremendous amount of space in said laundry room. I think this spaciousness had caused the bug to have finally really bitten. So I will tackle that job this morning while happily listening to Go with Brent Bambery on CBC radio- I'm estimating a 2 hour job. We'll see

Then on to Holiday Baking Part 1 - Gumdrop Cake and Divinity Fudge (if all goes well photos and recipes tomorrow) while listening to another favourite CBC program Quirks & Quarks with Bob MacDonald. More puttering, vacuuming the many tumbleweeds of pet hair roaming about this house, and a little shopping in the village - the hardware store, the second hand shop and I'll pop in to visit with Megan (the high school student and part time employee) at BFF Harry's little gift & decor store Inside & Out. Another walk with les chiens (Jake & Winnie Dixon), homemade vegetarian pizza and a movie - The Children Of Men this evening ... phew! what I great day I'll have had. You'll notice, not a drop of spontaneity in this girl.