Category Archives: Home and Garden

Only Child on preparing for winter

Are you ready and all prepared for winter?

Today is the last day of the warmer weather in southern Ontario. Temperatures  start nosediving later today and it’s all downhill (literally, and I don’t ski) from then. We can look forward to snow, shovelling the white stuff,  freezing temperatures, winds, walking in slush and snow, but I hope no freezing rain and ice storms of any kind. Every time I think of the big ice storm her of December 2013 I want to hide away.

Hide away is part of what I plan to do this winter. I will go out if I have to – business meetings, book promotion events, and some dinners with family and friends – but less than in spring, summer and fall. Weather permitting, I also want to go for a walk a few times a week (in daylight). I am hoping to keep the running around doing grocery errands to a bare minimum so have been doing my usual winter grocery stockup, particularly when items on my list are on sale. Now if someone with a car would only drive me to get thses groceries, the running around would be less. Taxis and having grocery stores deliver (the very few that do and I do like to pick out my groceries personally) are too expensive for my budget. Kind of crosses out buying on sale anyway.

So what are you doing to prepare for winter?

Besides the grocery stock-up, I have had the eavestroughs cleaned and other house and property-related winter repairs and the like done. And the garden and  yard cleanup and the like is done except I have to put burlap on the junipers. Hoping to do that tomorrow. And for once I have my Christmas decorations up early (most before the end of November).

Now I’m looking at all the unread books to read and looking forward to curling up and reading them. And watching TV and listening to music/

And hoping one of the guys who shovelled my snow in past years will be available this winter.

At least I don’t have to worry about snow tires. Non-existent cars don’t need them.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Extreme Weather, Grocery Shopping, Home and Garden, Snow

Only Child on writing a memoir using the senses of smell and taste

Mom and Only Child in Backyard

The senses of smell and taste often go together – at least where food is concerned. There are, of course, some smells you definitely don’t want to associate with any taste – like a skunk’s smell.  But maybe that will bring in some taste in your memory. It does for me.

A friend of mine always had at least one dog. And one of these dogs was forever colliding with a skunk. You can imagine the stinky and messy results. My friend used to try to remove the smell by bathing her dog in tomato juice.

Tomato juice is a taste I like and it brings back some memories – my mother growing tomatoes. My mother making some God-awful relish from green tomatoes. My mother calling me to the side door of our house where she stood on the other side with a large tin can in her hand and showing me what was inside the can. Not tomatoes she had picked, but horrible green tomato worms. I remember her laugh here.

So you can see how taste and smell can work together to trigger something from your past. That something might just be a story you want to include in your memoir.

For those writing a memoir, using the six senses to kick start your memoir is one way to get your mind, feelings and emotions (latter two very important) back in your past.

When you walk into a Tim Hortons and smell the coffee, what does that remind you of? And when you taste the coffee? Does that enhance your memory?

This Tuesday, November 21 I’m teaching another workshop on Kick starting your memoir using the six senses. This time I’m at the Forest Hill Library Branch in Toronto. There is still room in the workshop for participants for anyone living in the Toronto Ontario Canada area who is reading this before the workshop time  (2 p.m. to 3.30 p.m.) and day. You can either phone the library at or just show up. More details here.

I’m posting this a day early because the workshop is Tuesday, when I usually post to Only Child Writes.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

Sharon’s backyard garden. No green hornworms on my tomato plants.

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Filed under 1950s, Family and Friends, Home and Garden, Memoir writing, Writing

Only child’s take on dining out(side)

Only Child with Mom in the backyard

In the stifling hot days of summer, my mother would haul out the whole paraphernalia for our family of three to eat outside in the summer. This was back in the late 1950s and early 1960s when air-conditioned homes were not the norm. But at suppertime, our backyard had shade.

So, with some help from Dad and me, and several trips – from the kitchen, down the side stairs, out into the driveway to the backyard went a small card table, three chairs, table cloth, serviettes, cutlery, plates, and all the dishes of food – depending on what we were eating. And yes, it was often hot food. But the entrance to the backyard was inviting – an archway of red roses.

Only Child’s Dad under the backyard entrance

It was enjoyable eating outside in the breeze. But when even the temperature in the shade rose too high, mom used her backup plan – eating in the basement. Before the basement renovation, we would sit in our own private dining room with black floors, huge cement pillars, a furnace turned off for the summer, the old coal bin (which remained after the switch to oil heat) and mother’s pride and joy – her root cellar where all her canned jams, pickles, green tomatoes and the like were stored.

You could say it was all a labour of love combined with necessity – either roast or eat the roast, be cool or sweat.

But Mom had a dirty little secret, one which was shared among some of the women on her side of the family.

Except for cooking, canning and sewing, my mother hated housework.

I don’t recall her even doing a weekly housecleaning, except for laundry and it got hung out (even sometimes in winter) until she purchased a clothes dryer. But vacuuming and dusting, cleaning bathrooms, etc.? Only if company was coming.

Then it was the big hustle to make everything neat and clean. Put away in closets and drawers were all her sewing paraphernalia – including the portable machine. You see, the home for all of that was the dining room table. And we needed that for the dinners for company. Company was mostly family and some friends. Mom did love to cook and bake and our family loved to eat.

But cleaning the house. Not in our genes.

And I think this dislike, even hatred for doing housework, is in the genes. I can’t find any scientific proof, so I will use anecdotes. My mother’s youngest sister , my godmother, was the same – loved to cook and bake, garden, and can, but clean? However, my godmother was a farmer’s wife, so there was lots else to do that your average housewife of the 50s and 60s didn’t do. But that doesn’t explain one of my Detroit Michigan cousins – who loved to sew and cook but hated to clean.

Are you getting the picture?

As for me – well I love to cook and garden, but freeze and dry garden vegetables and fruit (sometimes from the Farmer’s Market, not just my garden). I used to like to sew but lost interest over the years – I blame that on other interests taking over, lack of sufficient time, but also bad eyesight. When I am forced to mend an item of clothing, I can take more time threading the needle because I can’t see the hole, than actually mending. And this from a woman who made all her maternity clothes and used to quilt by hand.

As for the weekly housecleaning – some of it gets done – the laundry, changing bed-sheets, clean kitchen counters and sinks, and vacuum or mop. Dusting? Maybe every six weeks – to borrow a friend’s phrase “too much work.”

But nothing beats going outside on the veranda or in my backyard patio to eat my meals. I have it easier than Mom. Sure, for the backyard, I have to use a side door like Mom. But there is a patio table and umbrella already out there, so it is just bring out the food, sit down and eat. And breathe in, feast my eyes and nose on the flowers and veggies in my garden.

Top of my patio table up close

 

And try to keep the wasps away. I’m allergic to them. But it’s my patio and my garden.  So when it’s not raining, I’ll sit, eat and enjoy.

Looking from the patio at fresh lettuce, rhubarb and oregano

 

So, do you regularly clean your house, condo or apartment?

Or do you have better things to do? And if so, what are they?

I’d like some comments about this.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Family, Garden, Gardening, Heat summer, Hereditary, Home and Garden, Mom and Dad, Only child

Only Child plans to hibernate this winter

shovelling-colorThis winter I plan to do like a bear – hibernate. Not entirely, but I plan to limit my outside time. I hate winter weather – cold, snow, ice storms, blizzards, heavy winds, etc. – with a passion.. Winter sports don’t interest me either. About the only things I like about winter are Christmas and winter fashions.

And it looks like I have picked a winter to do just that. Winter started in Canada over the past weekend in all but eastern and western Canada. Snow, extreme winds and extreme cold – all the ingredients that make me want to hide away inside. That is about three weeks earlier than usual – except maybe for the odd few days of a cold-snow spell the first week of December. It is only November 22 for whomever’s sake.

And The Weather Network’s winter forecast broadcast yesterday (and parts of it online at their website) forecast a more traditional winter for the Canadian Prairies and Ontario and Quebec. That means more Colorado lows (like the one we got over the weekend in Ontario, and maybe worse), lake effect snowstorms, colder temperatures (although not as cold as the winter of 2013-2014). But still too cold for my liking. The screwball part of the forecast (and not faulting the forecasters here, but what they found) is where the warmest parts of Canada will be – the northern territories. All upside down. Climate change? Maybe in part for the northern Canadian areas. But I also factor in what the lady on the bus in May 2015 said – “God controls the weather.” I leave all that for you to ponder.

As for me, once I’ve finished all the extra winter grocery stock-up buying, I am going to try to limit my grocery shopping outings. Not easy when you don’t have a car and can’t afford cabs. After the end of November I’m also limiting social, business and business social outings to two a week – one evening during the week and one day on the weekend. I will try to get out once a day (weather permitting – I don’t want to skate on sidewalks or roads) for a short walk in the neighbourhood. However, I suspect that a lot of my so-called outings will be shovelling the damn snow and putting down salt. (Note to self: ask my son to bring more bags of salt when he and his girlfriend come here for Christmas dinner).

I am also cutting back on what I do. Something I have already started. By weather default, outdoor gardening won’t be on  the agenda. That’s the one I don’t like to eliminate. But I can peruse gardening websites and garden books and catalogues for next spring and summer and experiment on what I try to grow in pots inside (and I don’t mean Mary Jane). Also off the agenda are any reunion lunches, etc. with former classmates, community newspaper colleagues and the like. As I seem to be the one who ends up organizing these (and my attempt at one early this past summer didn’t pan out), that’s out. There will also be a few other things off my list or in the case of email time, sitting with a timer for business email and leaving personal email (unless family emergency or urgency time-wise) until after my business hours.

So, what’s left  not mentioned? Well, writing, writing, writing, client work, and getting teaching and book promo gigs for next spring and afterwards in 2017. Already I have April 2017 booked up and another possibility for either April or June to be sorted out and finalized. Also want to do more reading –  not just books – I do manage to read many books, although my Goodreads account doesn’t indicate this. Hey, that takes time to manouevre through Goodreads to do so – but also magazines and for the weekend newspaper (Saturday and Sunday Toronto Star) finish reading all the sections I do read. I also want to watch TV, try some more recipes (I love to cook and eat too), and do some simple and cheap home decorating like re-arranging, adding a few small accessories.

With some things cut back or out the window (so to speak), I hope to do three things: get back to tracing my ancestry on my late father’s side and continue sorting out shelves, cupboards and drawers in various rooms in the house. I have been doing some of that latter sporadically lately. But I really need to tackle that drawer in my office that is overflowing with old outdated business cards collected over the years. The third thing to do is finish the preparations for my funeral and the like. And just the details like type of memorial (nothing even remotely religious). After all I am not getting any younger and you have to be prepared for these things. Preparing a will and powers of attorney (done here) are not enough these days.

I also intend to get together for a few dinner or lunch or brunch outings with my son and his girlfriend and close friends. Friends include some of my old school buddies. But as part of my twice a week social outings. And no big reunions. No big conventions or shows until the big garden one in mid-March – Canada Blooms.

That’s the plan. But unfortunately the best-made plans get screwed up by outside sources – like weather.

What was it the late John Lennon once said? Something about life being what happens when you are making plans? Actually it comes from a song he wrote about his older son,  Julian – Beautiful Boy.

Cheers

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Dad, Family and Friends, Home and Garden, Life Balance, Only child, Organizing and Deleting, Reading, Snow, Time management, Weather, Winter Weather, Writing

Only Child looks at fall

Soon to go inside for winter

Soon to go inside for winter

Continuing along the line of last week’s post on back to business in September, September also means a return to fall and then we know what happens after that.

The Weather Network presented their fall forecast last evening. I’m not going into that right now. You can view it here. It is what the word “fall” conjures up that is running around in my mind.

Back in the grey ages (1950s and early 1960), fall meant my dad had to change the screen windows for storm windows. Yes, that meant climbing up on a ladder and physically removing all the screens and putting up the storms – about a dozen windows. At least we don’t have to do that these days, but fall brings up more chores.

Clearing out the garden isn’t a chore, but everything else is. Cleaning the eavestroughs or getting someone to do so – in my case I hire someone but he has to come back several times to do more cleaning thanks to the black walnut trees which shed somewhat gradually (although you wouldn’t believe when you look at the ground) over six or more weeks. A few leaves have fallen down so far but most of the leaves on the trees (there are two walnut trees in my next-door neighbour’s yard that hang over – not complaining about that as they give me patio shade in the summer) are still green. Not holding my breath here.

Patio and verandah furniture will have to be brought in and the air-conditioner covered. There will still be a few more lawn mowing sessions. I finally got my eavestrough problem fixed – I hope, but that saga is for another blog post

For me, fall brings mixed blessings and curses. The latter is tied in a lot to what comes next – winter. And this one won’t be as mild in southern Ontario as the last winter according to the Farmer’s Almanac.

But the significant sign of fall for me is that my old patio umbrella finally stopped working. I had closed it for the past Saturday’s rain and wind storm. Part of the top blew off (thank you God, she said sarcastically). Still trying to decide if I should go through the time-consuming rigamarole of getting a new one now or leave it to next spring. There might be end of season sales on patio umbrellas but I could still run into the same problem as last spring when I was looking for a new one – there weren’t many suitable available and I did check out online and in person, sometimes with a friend. That’s another thing – besides the check online and in flyers for sales and availability of umbrellas, I have to get someone to either drive me to get it or pick it up and repay them. Not their fault, of course, but when you don’t have a car partly because you can’t afford a car and all its expenses….

Methinks I’ll just dump it at the end of the driveway later in the fall. If someone who can fix it wants it, good luck, they can have it. Otherwise the City of Toronto truck that picks up large items such as furniture can do so.

Now on to something more pleasant – fresh produce from the garden.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Dad, Fall, Garden, God, Home and Garden, Only child, Weather

Only Child says it’s back to school and business

Only Child on the patio of her backyard garden

Only Child on the patio of her backyard garden

The summer holidays are over and that makes me feel sad. Yes, I know there will be summer weather for at least another month, month and a half, but with school and work, there is a shift in the day. When I took a walk earlier this morning, the park I passed by was completely empty of people. Then from the school next to the park came a loudspeaker telling teachers and students to meet in the cafetorium – probably for classroom orientation.

I remember those days – the excitement and trepidation of returning to school – grade school it was internally smelling the pencils and books (I know back in the grey ages when we were spared all this digital business) and in high school some trepidation about new classes and new teachers. The latter with good reason. In the auditorium for grade 10 I found out that the typing classes I and many others had signed up for as an option were cancelled for us and we were stuck with cooking and sewing. Most of us didn’t like the cooking teacher and the sewing teacher was well, okay. But I needed to learn to type and I could learn cooking and sewing from my mother.

Fast forward to way too many years and I am being crowded by the “to-do” list – both mental and written. The writing, editing, writing instruction, book promo and the like do create some problems and it can get hectic, but this is what I love to do. Extra house repairs, including getting an eavestrough (yes, one eavestrough) repaired or replaced is now back on the agenda. In early spring I started getting quotes but became discouraged when one of the contractors came to my door to take a looksee and give a quote and the first thing he said was “I’m 72 and I don’t climb up on roofs.” Well, send somebody who does. His quote was way up there for just one eavestrough replacement. I was also discouraged by some eavestrough contractors who won’t replace just one eavestrough. I also had to get some trees hanging over my roof pruned way back as well as the recovering juniper trimmed back so I was also getting quotes from arborists.

Overkill in work to be done. And as my limited finances wouldn’t handle both, it was the trees that won out.  Now I’m focusing on the eavestrough with the hopes that it will get done by mid-October and I can afford it. Yes, I know, should have had quotes during the summer, but I was busy with the garden (by choice – something I love), editing and writing clients (ditto), getting other stuff outside and inside fixed, and dealing with trying to get the money I was owed. One client, in particular screwed up with half of the payment and the other was the government payments to us seniors that start up again after we file our taxes. Well the Notice of Assessment came back in pretty good time but the other – let’s just say the government took a month to get back into the swing of paying. Which was about a month better than that one errant client.

So, it’s back to the eavestrough business and other fall stuff like checking my heating protection plan renewal and booking a furnace cleaning. But also my garden – lots of vegetables and herbs to bring in and eat and process – just started collecting some of the oregano and drying it in the dehydrator. And of course my writing and editing and the writing groups I belong to starting up again.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Sharon wearing her grade 10 school sewing project

Only Child wearing her grade 10 school sewing project

 

Onl

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, finances, Home and Garden, Life Balance, Life demands, Only child, September, to do list

Only Child says we are at the mercy of bad weather and bad forecasts

black_umbrellaI admit it. I am a Weather Network junkie – both online and on TV. So I see videos of the horrible weather and its havoc worldwide. The number one horror this summer is floods, with its downside of droughts.

No matter what country the videos cover, everyone and everything seems to be drowning. Except in a few places like southern Ontario – so far. Keeping toes crossed that we don’t swing over to the opposite. Yes, we need the rain, but in these unsettled (to put it mildly) times, rain usually means torrential downpours, severe thunderstorms, flooding and the like. I can count on two thumbs the one day and one night this summer that Toronto had a normal rainfall where each lasted about six or so hours – medium rainfall, steady, no thunder, no lightning, no flooding on the streets. Just what we need.

But except for those rainfalls, that is not what we are getting.

Here in southern Ontario we have drought conditions – not the highest in numbers but getting there. But the gardens seem to be surviving so far. Perennials, for the most part are bigger and better, and the vegetables and fruits are doing well. For the first time in several years I am getting a decent-sized, almost large (for just me) crop of carrots, lettuce, onions and beans with some peas in there for good measure. The black raspberries were numerous and the rhubarb is about the same as other years. So, the turnips aren’t doing well – some plants even died. So, the lawns turned brown. Some lawns (including mine) have started turning green again – without me watering it, although a few small pathways probably got some water when I watered the perennials, shrubs, trees and vegetable and herb garden. I made sure they received the water but at the same time tried not to use too much water.  I know the farmers need more rain although the ones with vegetables and fruit at the farmers`markets seem to be doing okay.

But do we really want the opposite? And all that could bring? Flooded streets and basements, sometimes to the point we lose our homes and have to swim or take a boat through the flooded streets, or climb to the roof and hope a helicopter will rescue us.

These days you can’t really live anywhere without this fear hovering overhead (literally). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Climate change has a lot to do with it. But, it is also like the lady on that bus in May 2015 said: “God controls the weather.”

So, I try to spend time in my garden – if I’m not weeding or picking beans, or watering the garden, I like to sit out there and read, look around, and dare I say it? just think.

It’s what I think about that has changed as has the weather – a lot of the changes in all areas, not just weather, are not for the better, and it seems to have gotten much worse since we entered the 21st century.

That’s my 10 dollar’s worth anyway.

Well, costs have risen too, although the Canadian dollar is in the toilet.

Sorry, bad connotation – the water element.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Extreme rainfall weather, Extreme Weather, Floods, God, Home and Garden, Rain, Weather