Dust if you Must

I’ve always disliked dusting. I blame it on my allergy. It makes me sneeze. And it is so dirty. It is also pointless. It’s just going to accumulate again. Do you really dust it away? Or do you just move it into the air and then it settles after you walk away?

As the poem says, there is a “life to lead”. So many more fun things to do, rather than dust.

Dust If You Must
by Rose Milligan

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

  • 10 Tips For Dusting – OMG, I’m not doing all these things…no wonder my house is so dusty!
  • Sorry, I can’t add 2 more references for how and why you should be dusting….get outside and have some fun!

Beach House

I live close to a beach, now. My childhood was spent in and around the prairies, rolling hills, pastures, grass land, big sky sunsets. All those things are nice, but the seaside is something else.

Since moving here in 1991, I insisted on being house poor and beach location rich as a priority. If I could only afford to live in the far-flung suburbs up the valley, so far from the ocean, I’d rather be back in Alberta. And so we live just a few blocks walk to the beach of White Rock. We don’t have a view of the water, but with a small effort we are there.

Then there is the small matter of the beach house. If it is not connected to the sand with a few footsteps, it can’t really be called that. Technically, I guess. I’m not one for convention. I’ve been trying to make my house into my Pacific Coast dream ever since we took possession 12 years ago. It runs deeper than the decor, it is the feeling you get from a place. My parents always said, “life is what you make it”.

  • Light. We take advantage of the sunshine, as it moves through the day and the seasons.
  • Creative. The space inspires us to play, contemplate, generate ideas.
  • Eat. The kitchen is well stocked to allow experimentation.
  • Oasis. Nothing is more important than a relaxing place to let worries float away.
  • Rest. The bedrooms are being re-done, room by room, starting with the master. I’ve tried to give us an atmosphere of the beach in every element.

As we enjoy the last days of summer, here at our beach house, I feel like it is as close as possible to being in some exotic place, right on the seaside which we spent a lot of money to rent. In fact, I want each and every day to feel that way. And why can’t it?

It probably comes down to, how active is your imagination? In the dark, rainy days of winter, even the homes on the water’s edge are not a “tropical” beach paradise. But, with some tricks of light, warm and cozy places to rest, a little music, yummy snacks, we are there in spirit.

Hermit Trail_web

The girl next door

Last week, there was a discussion at work about consumer profiles and the characteristics for “the girl next door” were being described. I was amazed to learn that I have become HER.

I spent so many years trying on other personas. There were the rocker-chick years. Then my early University days were spent trying to perfect the high-powered, corporate, business, pant-suit type. Then I switched to design school and it all changed again. The bohemian, free-spirit, creative type came into play. There was a constant search to be someone and look a certain part. I was clearly not comfortable in my own skin.

But that is one of the perks of getting older. I am comfortable now. And whilst I never thought I wanted to be, “the girl next door”, there is nothing wrong with her.

As if “the universe was conspiring to help me”, writes Paulo Coelho writes in The Alchemist, I came across a blog post this morning that describes this new age “girl next door”. Sheri Salatin, who writes for Polyface Hen House was describing me to a tee. Somewhere along the line, this is who I have become.

What I find interesting about discovering someone else who is just like me, is a validation of myself. Maybe I have not found many friends that think the same way I do, in my neighbourhood. Now, with the help of the internet, I have easily discovered kindred spirits, in serious numbers. Who knew?

Here are some of the characteristics of the “girl next door”:

homebody - humblebea

Humblebea Gnomes

  • Homebody – this was a real problem for me because everyone thought clubbing was the only way to meet men. But I thought, intellectually anyway, that there was no kind of drunk man I wanted to meet at a club. I met my husband at the beach, probably the only place on earth where you can wear less clothes than a night club. And probably one of the few times I sported a bikini!
  • Family values – probably closely linked to liking home base.
  • Confident – this can be tough for a young woman. Easily misinterpreted as standoffish by other women. Men find this quality off-putting, they prefer a woman who needs them.
  • Nurturing – a great quality that young woman need to grow into to become comfortable with.
  • Low maintenance – I have never understood the hours and hours of make-up, hair and other primping ceremonies so many women go through. If I’m going to spend hours at something, it will be a massage. I think a 3 dressed up as a 9 is a waste of time.
  • Straight forward – no games. I could never be bothered to make-up elaborate stories to make a man feel more confident so that I looked weaker for it. As I get older, my husband does appreciate a little softening here.
  • The buck stops here – this is an adage that I learned early on and really took to heart. I’m not going to pass blame, I’ll do everything I can to fix things and try to create solutions to problems.
  • Likes to have fun – within the context of all the values above. Travel, meeting new people, have great experiences – being at ease with changing circumstances, finding the bright side of things.

Disclaimer – this is not to say that I portray these characteristics all the time. In fact, my husband may argue that the girl next door is more of a latent attitude. In any case, this gives me hope for the woman who I am becoming.

No Place Like Home

“There’s no place like home,” a quote from L. Frank Baum’s 1900 fantasy, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Near the end of its 1939 adaptation, Dorothy repeats that phrase to return home to Kansas.

There were important life lessons in that movie. Themes like:

  • family appreciation
  • friends working together
  • finding your personal best qualities
  • good versus evil
  • belief in yourself

In the end, though, it was really about what qualities people identify with home. What pulls people back after being away. What values, physical characteristics and relationships are most important.

I had a similar experience this past week. It was a biannual meeting where many people from around the world, come together to share and learn.

Because we are far away from home and the culture and languages are different, there is a quality to life that is somewhat surreal, like being in a movie. (Listening to a variety of foreign languages, eating different foods and sleeping in tiny single beds.) There are characters throughout the week that are either unexpected or behave in strange ways. (Who can predict what kind of guest speakers will appear, or if a known character will suddenly break completely from their normal personality.)

All of that would be quite tolerable to a person’s frame of mind, but the sleep deprivation starts to kick in. Over the course of a week, it is not uncommon reduce normal sleeping hours by 2 to 3 per night, which equals over 2 full nights of regular rest at home, over the same period. That is where the physiological effects start to kick-in. Depending on the person, it can be both funny and sad to watch and experience.

Even that wouldn’t be so bad, if it were not for the epic journey, 4 of us endured, to get home. Suffice to say, it took 27 hours to complete a trip that normally takes us about 17. And we trekked the path, just like the foursome in “The Wizard of Oz.” We had a lion, a tin-man, a scarecrow and Dorothy. By supporting each other, laughing and trying to be optimistic, we made it home.

As the hours continue to pass and the experience quietly fades away, what I think of, is how much I love being at home. I’m not sure why, we humans have to venture away from home, to truly appreciate why we love it. But that was what happened to me last week.

Other blogs – There’s No Place Like Home:

White Rock Beach

Living in different places

21 homes in the last 41 years. That is a whole bunch of moves.

  • 1970: Calgary, Alberta, Canada (1 house, I think)
  • 1973: Devon, Alberta, Canada (2,3,4)
  • 1978: Spring, Texas, USA (5)
  • 1979: Devon, Alberta, Canada (back to #4)
  • 1983: Calgary, Alberta, Canada (6)
  • 1987: Devon, Alberta, Canada (7)
  • 1988: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (8 my first apartment)
  • 1989: Calgary, Alberta, Canada (9)
  • 1991: Richmond, BC, Canada (10, and technically 1 month in Vancouver which I’m not counting)
  • 1992: New Westminster, BC, Canada (11, first place with my future husband)
  • 1993: Calgary, Alberta, Canada (12, and a short stint at my Mom’s while my sister was in hospital with leukemia)
  • 1994: Fairfield, CT, USA (13)
  • 1995: Harwinton, CT, USA (14)
  • 1996: Calgary, Alberta, Canada (15)
  • 1997: White Rock, BC, Canada (16)
  • 1998: Cheshire, CT, USA (17)
  • 1999: Vernon, BC, Canada (18,19 – our first purchased house)
  • 2002: Surrey, BC, Canada (20,21)

And now, am I am coming close to 10 years in my current home – lucky 21. My daughter was brought home from the hospital to this house and my son was only a toddler. They have never known the ups and downs of moving around as I did.

My son has been attending the same small school with the exact same group of children since he started in kindergarten. My daughter’s year has been larger, so the classmates ebb and flow a bit, but only across the hallway.

I guess I was living a bit of a gypsy lifestyle. (Except not in a trailer of course). New houses, new schools, new jobs. A constant state of adjusting. Since I had never known a different way of life, it was very normal to me.

But now as I have settled down in one place for so long. I have planted roots. My community means something different to me now. I like knowing the routines of my neighbours. We watch out for each other. It is a nice feeling.

New carpet

As the fall season sets in and Thanksgiving is almost upon us, we are starting to get all the warm and cozy comforts into place at our house. Changing the drapes, pillow shams and carpets are just a few of the things that herald in the season when we spend a good deal of time inside.

Over the years, and the various places we have lived, there has been quite an effort to remove all the carpets. So now it seems a bit strange to be adding them back.

Usually we have small rugs in the middle of the room that are easy care, low pile, decorations for the floor, really. But not today. We purchased a huge, deep pile, polypropylene, piece of softness.

As I spread out my new rug and was giving it a first vacuum, it occurred to me that what I had put down what we used to call “shag” carpet in the ’70’s. The stuff my Grandma used to “rake” to have the nap all going in one direction. This is the despised carpet of many home renovation projects, and may have been pulled out in one of the places we have worked on.

But I don’t care about all that. As we sit here in the living room tonight with our socks off, digging our toes into the nice soft, pile of the new rug, life is good. (Now all we need are some La-Z-Boy® recliners and we are officially middle-aged.)

It is the simple stuff that is truly best.

Front Yard Breakfast

This week, the first of my figs are ripening.

Somehow, I have managed against quite a few odds to harvest figs from my tree in the front yard. But let me back up.

9 years ago when we bought this property there was a beautiful climbing rose in the front. It almost overtook the front stoop and required this ugly support to do so. But I couldn’t kill it. So my Mom and I spent many hours digging it out and moving it to a side yard location, (where it has never really recovered.)

I am not a rose girl as you can tell. I want some kind of tasty harvest from my plantings. I am sure that all the effort to produce fantastic roses is well worth it, for some people. However, I also prefer plants that can fend for themselves whilst producing something I can eat. Roses, left to their own devices do not thrive here on the Coast, but rather only survive.

Just after the rose moving operation, my Mom and I were in a nursery and saw a fig tree on sale for $16.95. Turned out by luck the vacated spot from the rose bush should be the perfect spot for my newly aquired tree. Time will tell if all my reading on fig tree preferences is true or not.

Evidently, fig trees can get “out of hand”, producing so much fruit a person will be making jam for days, not to waste any. Bring it on, I can’t imagine it from my tree – but I welcome the challenge.

Breakfast pictured here was toasted sourdough with a local goats cheese, then figs drizzled with a little honey, S&P to taste. Yum.

Completion specialist

My husband first used this term in relation to some of my weekend projects. I thought it was a compliment because surely, he could not be thinking that I left things undone? Clearly I was mistaken. He was certainly talking about me.

At first my completion problems were not that big of a deal. A bunch of weeds that sat to the side of a garden bed for the weekend, but were cleared away by Sunday night. Then, as it happens when you start a family, life becomes incredibly complicated. So the weeds would be in neat little piles all over the garden and lucky to be cleared away in that garden season if it was left up to me.

An ultimatum was thrown down in the form of two words – completion specialist. If a task could not be completed in the same day, then it should not be started. In the busy years where I travelled to Europe two or three times in the Spring/Summer season, there were threats made that I couldn’t have a garden at all!

Of course this problem ran into the kitchen as well. I would plan and buy groceries for more than was humanly possible to cook in a weekend. Maybe this habit was a throw back to the days when I had a room-mate who was an actual chef.

So the new Jamie Oliver cookbook that promises a complete meal on the table in 20 to 30 minutes was a potential life saver. My first attempt at the salmon dinner was a bit of a rocky start. It is worth mentioning that when I did cook the salmon the next night, everyone liked the crispy skin. (That was a bit of a shocker.)

Last night was better, chicken dinner in just over an hour. Everyone liked all the dishes, except the usual things on my husband’s list of “do not like, how many times have I told you?” But Jamie is very clear not to substitute. And I thought this might be the recipe to make him like spinach. Not so much, he must have some childhood trauma with that vegetable.

Tonight I completed a sausage pasta, salad and dessert in 40 minutes. Huge improvement and everyone liked every dish. The kids ate the desert with such gusto that they sounded like they had never eaten sugar before.

Having everyone happy, well fed and getting closer to becoming a completion specialist is really fantastic.

Unfortunately, the dishes that this quick little meal created will take longer than 40 minutes to wash. But she who cooks does not clean in our house!