Dog Days of Summer

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Dali makes a friend

My Chihuahua is enjoying the summer, now that it isn’t the heat wave we had in July, and all the rain and flooding.

Flooded creek in my area - seen form my balcony

Flooded creek in my area – seen from my balcony

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Dali under her blanket

Dali has been making friends.  As you can see she isn’t the most energetic of dogs.  I find that to get her to run, I must run as well.  She enjoyed meeting this cute dog. The other dog that was there was too hyper for Dali’s taste.   Someone said that my dog is very serious. It is difficult  to capture her silly side in a photo though.

Today my son took this photo of her – lounging on the reading chair, under her blanket.  It was a present from one of my students and Dali will follow it anywhere.  Right now she is under it snoring.  Chihuahua’s love to burrow.

Presently we’re off to the weekly farmer’s market together.  It is nice to shop with your dog.  I enjoy the walk there and back.  I am looking forward to the fresh local peaches.  The last batch was so sweet and juicy.

Corn on the Cob & a Chihuahua’s Attitude

2013 - 6 Dali-cob 017RszdWe had to listen to some crying at the dining room table today.  1st corn of the year – US product.  Very sweet and juicy.  She must use a place-mat or she can’t have it.  That goes for any food that can’t be cut and placed in her bowl.

We will be working on the crying part asap.

This is the look we get when she really wants us to do something – just before she goes into her bullying mode.

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Bad Weather = Bad Migraines

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Mag Illustration by J.Crawley

Spring has always been a mixed blessing for me.  Along with all the changes in weather, from the winter cold to the hot late spring, I can have many days of migraine.  When I was a student it often left me stranded at school unable to get home or even have the strength to walk to class.   As an employee I often worried it could cost me my job.  I still work away from home but thankfully not everyday.  I have been laid low for up to 4 days.  Laid low is a gentle way of putting it.  Intolerance to light, smell and strong neck pain are the usual symptoms.

2013 - 5 077RszdThe big weather we have all experienced in North America over the past 5 days has been tragic for our neighbours in the United States and I am personally horrified by the images of devastation.  Here in Ontario we have had some  thunderstorms and flooding.  Luckily I was able to teach last week and didn’t even have to take any pain meds for my head.  I guess I got lulled into thinking I am beyond the big migraines at my age.  They say they diminish with age.   It is true that I have less migraines.  On Saturday I thought I might drive to my parent’s home for a visit but events changed that, luckily.  I would have been stranded.  I started to lose my balance and felt dizzy.  I lay down and I realised I was in trouble.  The heat and the up and down of the weather [high winds and sudden heavy rains] were a backdrop.2013 - 5 080Rszd

Earlier in the spring I had escalating pain from the back of my head, rising to the top as I walked from my bed to the door, quickly doused with pain meds.  This weekend I was almost unable to walk around my home, make dinners, walk the dog, converse, do any of my art projects, or read.  I was taking pain relief every 4 hours.  I walked and talked like someone on a bender.  Today I still have it but I am able to get outside.  Tomorrow I work out-of-town and I am very worried about the long hours driving and standing.  I will rely on my headache meds, taken strategically to avoid any issues on the commute.  Today I will continue to rest when I can.

2012 - 9 217Migraines are exhausting.  A bit like the flu.  When they are over you are worn out – even though you’ve been bedridden.   Years ago I learned that there are many triggers to migraines and learned the ones that affect me.  Weather is a big one for me.  I almost never have any in the winter – none that I can’t squash with a pill.  The month of May is often my least favourite because of the storms – the high and low pressure.  I am a human barometer.   Hydration is a huge factor.  You must stay hydrated and never skip meals completely.  Any stress on the body can cause a migraine one or two days later.  As a young woman my hormones played havoc with these issue as I ate less and was quite dehydrated during menstruation.  Poor posture is also a big deal.  If I have been working and fail to notice my posture, my neck will start to ache and start-up the tension that can create a migraine.  I knew a migraine sufferer who went to a chiropractor to readjust her neck to stop hers’.   Hers were extremely harsh and long-lasting.

So if you are a migraine sufferer the only advice I can give is for each person to try to find your triggers.  Hydration and poor posture are big for most sufferers.  I am not a qualified person to talk about the pain meds available.  I have experimented over the years and I hate pills generally.  I try to take the least harmful and not get carried away with the amount.  To fellow sufferers – good luck.

You Can’t Go Home Again

The CBC Radio did a very poignant radio show on Sat May 25th on DNTO about how going home to recapture the old is not going to happen.  I was on my way back to my home in Toronto.  I had just left my parent’s home in Guelph and had been visiting our old home just the week before.  Here are some of the photos.

Old Farm - laneway

Old Farmhouse - C1860
Old Farmhouse – C1860

My parents left this place in 2002.  The city has kept it empty.  Vandals broke windows – original windows from when it was built in 1860.  They put a new roof on it last year.  Last year they decided to sell it – no one has bought it.  Inside it has 10″ wide cedar floors and tall windows and large open spaces.  It would have needed lots of work and now with the veranda falling down I’m not sure anyone wants the headache. I remember sweeping the veranda every day – full of brown bats by the way.  The bats kept the bugs down – being right next to a spring.

The original Orchards are gone and the fruit tress my parents planted in 1967 are in bad shape.  The Lilac trees which reached up to my bedroom, now cover the windows.

Old Orchard

Old Orchard

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I spent many summer days swimming in the pond – taking my horse for swims as well.  It is still there and the trees and shrubs are almost hiding the house now.

Old Farmhouse - pond

Old Farmhouse – pond

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You can see the worn out roadway at the old farm and the well-kept one at the new farm.  It may seem strange to you who don’t know this land – as all the farms are the same age and my family has worked them since the early 1800’s.   Here are the dogs off on their adventure to the old farm.  The New farm is just south of the Old Farm – the land flows downwards so the new place looks down to the old and the city of Guelph.

New Farm - laneway

New Farm – lane-way

Lamb Bone = Dog Bliss

Usually I won’t even think to give my dog a cooked bone.  We had a nice Lamb roast during the holidays and as usual I had a garbage thief.  The same thing happened when Dali discovered corn on the cob.  We see a very determined chihuahua racing for a hiding spot, with a large object clenched in her jaws.   I monitored the lamb bone.  After each sitting I put it into a sandwich bag and over the next 5 days she has had a wonderful time wearing it down and getting the marrow out.  I also gave her strips of dried sweet potato [purchased that way] and this seems to have kept her digestion just fine.  Unfortunately kibble isn’t the favourite for this diva these days.  We play dog bowl curling between the two of us – she kicks it to me and I kick it back, only to take it away for another time.

Lamb Bone

Lamb Bone

Lamb Bone Started

Lamb Bone Started

Note the place-mat – as the bone was greasy and odouriferous  I made her use it even when she wanted to chew while on the sofa.  After each one hour chew fest, I had to wash her face and paws, as she smelled strongly of roast lamb.

Oh many of my Italian and Spanish friends will like this too – so I must share this one. You could use wheat or barley instead for a nuttier taste. I’m sure my grandmother knew how to make such a pudding – the English were very fond of foods from all the countries they invaded – :) For some reason I am polenta challenged but I will check this one out soon. Thanks Laurie.

A Taste of Morning

Indian Pudding is a traditional New England dessert which can be traced back to the 18th century. I developed a  fondness for it when I lived in the Boston area. For some reason, though, it is relatively unknown outside of New England.

Here is a brief history of the dish …

When British settlers moved to this country they brought their Hasty Pudding recipes with them. I’ve never had Hasty Pudding, but apparently it is a dish made from wheat cooked in water or milk until it develops the consistency of a porridge. Wheat was in short supply in New England, so the settlers adapted to the new world by substituting corn meal – which they called Indian flour. Being along a trade route with plentiful molasses and spices, they embellished the dish with these flavorful additions as well as with dried fruits and sometimes nuts … and thankfully, the…

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Holiday Visits

I was up at the farm on Christmas Eve to celebrate with my mother and brother, along with my husband and son.  My other brother and his family [4 of his kids and their families = a lot of people] were visiting the next day – and due to multiple flu victims, they didn’t drop by to say hello to us.  So it was a quiet and fun evening , just the 5 of us.  Then you have to consider the pets.  Adam, my mother’s collie was very happy to see us and get started on the duck dinner.  My chihuahua, Dali, was in great form as well.  I had her traveling case beside me to discourage her from climbing the furniture.  Adam kept her company, under my mother’s wheel chair.  He has used this space since he was a pup.

Adam in his special spot

Adam in his special spot

Where do You Look?

Do you look ahead or to the side or just watch where your feet are stepping?  Should you look directly at anyone and feel OK about a direct look?  Do you know when is it good or bad form?  Some of these questions hit me in the elevator last week.   I’ve debated this before.   Of course the variables change and so do the rules.  What interests me most are the checks we live with – personal rules and social protocol.

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family – no flash – lots of movement

Last week – There was this girl who stepped into the elevator and faced perpendicular to me.  I could see out of the corner of my eye, that she was short, 20 something with long, straight, dark blond hair held back with an Alice band.  Her face was long and pale.  The band wasn’t able to hold the hair well and the cotton shapeless outfit spelled youth, arts student and earth child.  She gazed up at me, to ask me something.  Normally people are not so direct.  I’m not too comfortable with gazing although I am very good at looking.  I noticed her eyes were open really wide and they looked directly at me as I talked.

I only managed a few seconds of returned gaze.  I wasn’t able to keep my thoughts together under this gaze.  The intensity was startling.   The 1st issue was because of this internal running commentary going on about looking at people and secondly it was about participating in her reality.  It was too personal.   I chose to look sideways.  Unfortunately I started to laugh at myself but she interpreted it more with what I was saying and the conversation was lightened.   I think I saw amusement being sent back at me, as she noted my off-center gaze.  Perhaps she too has the same internal conversation.

Through a certain amount of personal shyness I am sure I have rarely looked anyone in the eye, most of my days.  Contrarily,  I am also a starer.  As an artist I stare very intently.  My husband and friends, in our early acquaintance, found those stares a bit uncomfortable.  Our art class model used to comment on my stares.  I stare at all sorts of things when I’m listening or looking.

Some days I become very bold and just stare – however it isn’t without risk.  I once was shouted at – “What do you think you are looking at?!!” by a very large person.  I thought it was obvious and even though she was alarming in her reaction, I found the situation very funny.  Perhaps it was rude but in all truth I was having a great old time looking at her, watching her walk towards me.  I wasn’t critical, I was just looking.  When I was a young person I often walked along looking at the ground!  When I traveled to and lived for a bit  in California that all fell away – thankfully.  It was unexpected – nowhere else had that effect on me.

As an artist I look at everything.   Colour, shapes, movement, negative space – they are all food for thought.  One of my most common looking strategies is when I let the visual image come in uncensored.  This is a distancing strategy.  I manage to look without engaging in details.  My work is very detail oriented and critical in nature.  It can be that work  and the social looking are not always played  properly.   They can be misinterpreted in kind.

In the end I will continue to look and monitor my behavior.  Looking is fun and maybe a bit dangerous.  The alternative is too depressing.2012-6-1-BowlCrpdRszd

Hoar Frost

I was up at the farm last weekend and the Hoar Frost was amazing.  I was so happy I had the camera with me.  Initially it seemed a waste because it was such a grey day.  It got greyer as I drove up the escarpment.  There is often a 3 to 10 degree difference from the city to the country, where the farm is. When I get to the farm there could be black ice and snow.

Alongside the road, the woods and farms looked spooky in the fog.  By the time I turned off the highway the temperature had plummeted to create the hoar-frost.  Our car has a  temp read-out of the ground.  It was +2C in town,  0C on the highway and -5C on the side road.

Trees on Roadway - Frosted

Trees on Roadway – Frosted

Old Maples

Old Maples

Hay Field

Hay Field

Lane entrance

Lane entrance

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Hoar Frost

Hoar Frost

In the photos with the ‘fog’ – the frost is disappearing into the air – this was over so quickly – I am glad I wasn’t late for lunch. . Once at the farm I bundled up my Chihuahua and took her and my parent’s collie for a walk.  Dali always has a good time but damp cold and snow aren’t a Chihuahua’s favourite.  When we turned around to walk home she was charged and that excited Adam the collie – who in turn hoped they would play.  Dali was up for a race but not a wrestle!

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Play!

Play!

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Running – don’t stop

     Running is all about the experience.  Walking is more meditative.  When I walk I tend to think about things in a dream-like way.  Sometimes I forget about my posture which leads to some pain or twinge.  Walking allows me to reflect on my surroundings and all I see, hear and breath.  Running is very different for me – although the pauses and the blood pumping do heighten the visual.  When I’m running I am very focused on my form.  I have weak ankles and must stay focused so as to stay upright.  I also suck in my gut and hold my spine up to protect it from my not so elegant running.  I hate running like a girl.  I work on that too – trying to power up my stride and form.  The results are all good.  I am finally rediscovering my waist and a firm musculature to my legs and but.

I haven’t run in years – many years.  I remember running as a youth – just for the fun of it.  Surprisingly it wasn’t  very fun in gym class.  I can only say that gym made it a chore and I hate chores.   I would run down the gravel road or the dirt lane-ways with abandon. When I lived north of San Francisco I got into running – ran for 10 then 15 minutes at a time until I built up to a 1/2  hour.  I never got higher than that as it was a good amount to stick to.   My son was another motivator when he was quite young – we’d run a lot.  Two years ago I got  a dog to get me out of the house and to be a companion.  When I’m alone I tend to read or paint – neither exercises anything but my eyes and hands.  It is working.  Dali and I go out every day – multiple times.

I live in an urban area that can get boring after a year of walking in the same parks or streets.  I have used the baseball field for running as it is kept really smooth and has a stone-chip outer edge to the field, like a lane-way. After 2 years, even the dog is not too motivated some days.  Out of desperation one day I took to running in the soccer field.  For some reason it is more fun – perhaps because it is full of surprises [holes] and it is something new.

At first my running was pretty sad.  One trip from goal post to goal post just about killed me.    Now in the soccer field I feel elation. I can run up and down and across many times just trying to keep my legs pumping and staying upright.   A few days ago I thought I instantaneously sprained both feet when I was in a real sprint.  Humbled I limped along until I could try again.  There is a sort of stiffness that has settled in to my tendons as I have aged – probably due to a more sedentary lifestyle.

Naturally my dog loves the running.  I trick her when she’s sniffing at something and not paying attention – I sneak away as fast as I can.  Naturally she’s at my side in no time.  It is fun to look around and see her ‘flying’ across the field.  She loves the challenge of not losing me.  Running with her off leash is best for us both.  With the leash she seems to think she has to win the race so it may look pretty funny with me running behind a Chihuahua in full-out running mode.  It is even better to run around in the country.  My parent’s collie thinks so too.

I turned 60 recently.  It has really made me think about aging and taking your body for granted.  I love going to the soccer field and  running around like a nut while the local kids are playing nearby.  They don’t seem to take any notice of me but they love the dog.  As I look around I can see that I am the only adult having fun.  Perhaps I am a less mature individual – I’ve always been a bit different.   It shocks me that as we age we think we can’t be exuberant.  Is there a rule?

All the dog-walkers in my area stand or stroll – no power walks or running.  Their dogs must be very upset.  Their inactivity makes me want to scream. Any adults I’ve asked have declined the idea of running with their dogs – they say, ‘they can’t run any more’.   Of course you see runners in the park – if they have dogs they seem very happy.