Force of nature

Stormy Winter Morning

Stormy winter morning at the cottage.

This morning I bring you a post from the cottage, where we’re cozied up by the fire enjoying the forces of nature around us. We arrived on Friday night after driving through steady, sticky snowfall, and Saturday turned out to be a sloshy warm day, perfect for building snowmen and forts out of the relatively fresh snow. This morning I took Luna out for a walk in blustery but warm winter winds. But the mild weather is about to turn — according to the forecast, here in Coby it will drop to -21°C by the evening, and remain frigid for the rest of the week. Brrr!

Luna by the Fire

Luna by the Fire – photo taken by Chris.

We decided to come up here this weekend to relax after a week and a half of a roller coaster real estate ride that isn’t over yet. We have big news, but I’m going to wait to share until all our ducks are lined up, which we hope to have figured out about a week from now. I know, I’m such a tease. Stay tuned!

Turkey Parade

How I spent my Family Day weekend…

These guys put on a show for my parents, who accompanied us at the cottage in Coboconk for the first time this Family Day Weekend. In fact, all the wildlife was out putting on a show — we had swans flying over, geese and ducks, and a pair of bald eagles hanging out across the lake. Unfortunately they were out of range for any good photos or video. But the turkeys were plentiful, driving the dogs crazy (one of the neighbours feeds them, so they hang around and are quite abundant). This is the first time we’ve ever seen them walk across the frozen lake like this though. Oh, and apparently a group of turkeys is called a ‘rafter.’ Who knew?

Rested and rejuvenated

Sunset at the cottage

Luna & Chris enjoying the remnants of a day at the cottage

So I’ve been MIA from the blogosphere yet again but for good reason. Firstly, I’ve been migrating to a new laptop which hast taken some time to get my Aperture library moved (and to learn Aperture 3, which has been completely overhauled from version 2), getting other software installed and bookmarks and address books ported over.

Also, well, I escaped from the city for most of the last 10 days. First I spent a fabulous weekend riding in the York Regional Forest (Newmarket area) with the good folks from the Ontario Trail Riders Association and Chesley Saddle Club. We had perfect weather, albeit a bit dry and dusty. Thanks to my buddy Leanne for once again loaning me a nag (King, her palomino and often my borrowed hayburner, is my hero — I can only dream of owning such a fabulous mount myself some day).

Then Chris and I packed up Luna, picked up a canoe we bought from Alice and Chris, and booted it up to Coboconk (Coby) to spend the week up there. It was a big week for Luna — she learned how to swim (being a Lab she pretty much took to the water like a fish), had her first boat ride, AND her first canoe ride. Chris and I had life jackets on tight expecting we might have to bail, but she did so great — a total pro. Didn’t even hesitate to jump in from the dock. She needs to learn to keep still and not wander around but the tipping didn’t seem to concern her at all. Unfortunately I think she’s already too big to go on any big backcountry tours (unless it was for a weekend in Killarny), as she doesn’t leave much room for luggage. But if she doesn’t get too much bigger she could still go along on toots around the lake at the cottage.

Sunset at the cottage

Seriously. Can you get any better than this?

Sunset at the cottage

Or this?

I had packed up my quilting project expecting this would be the perfect opportunity for finishing it off, but I ran into a snag when I got to the part that involved the actual quilting. My thread was breaking after quilting only about a half a yard at a time, and the nearest fabric/quilt store was more than an hour away. I did a little research and it appears that a.) I need to use a different needle specifically for quilting and b.) use thread specified for quilting. Who knew? Not me.

Anyway so there it is. Also, I need to finesse my free-motion technique. That is so much harder than it looks. Today I ran out and got some new thread and needles, and I hope to try this out again soon.

Finished Baby Quilt Top

My finished quilt top

My other keep-me-busy project while lounging with a beer was SpillyJane Knit’s Carrot & Beet Mittens, or as I like to call them, my Garden Nerd mittens. Not exactly seasonal in the sense that they’re mitts, but seasonal in that they feature carrots and beets!

Carrot & Beet Mittens

Sort of seasonal, sort of not

Speaking of gardening, since we came back to the city yesterday so we could attend the C’est What Spring Beer Festival, I spent today catching up on my planting. My raised beds got their tomatoes, peppers, chiles, a few more beets and some beans and peas today.

I was terribly negligent in transplanting my seedlings this spring — essentially they just stayed in their little paper pots until today. I even dispensed with hardening off. Hopefully the guys I planted out today handle the adjustment to full sun okay. I’ve just been too busy this year I think.

Of course I had way more seedlings than I have space for so I’ll be finding new homes for those. Those guys have been repotted into bigger digs to help them keep up with the season. I’m sure I won’t have any problem finding takers.

Finally I killed my back and knees weeding the back section of our backyard today. It was such a mess of overgrown violets and other weeds that had grown so big you couldn’t see the perennials I put back there last year. The only thing that didn’t survive the winter was the lupins. I’m planning to divide some hostas and bleeding hearts from another section of my garden to help fill things out back there. I’m determined to make that section look good, if it kills me. Hopefully I can get some mulch back there to help me keep up with things.

Anyway, some video of Luna swimming to come when I get it edited.

Some older Luna video

I’m trying to catch up on some videos that I have saved up. This one is from Valentine’s Day weekend in February, when we took Luna to the cottage for the first time. She was about 10 weeks old here. It’s not overly thrilling video, but she’s super cute, playing in the snow, all little and such. She learned how to take stairs this weekend and I only took a small clip of it. I wish I’d grabbed a bit more, because it became the focus of her weekend, to go upstairs, both sets of stairs, constantly.

Luna goes to the cottage for the first time from Sarah Mulholland on Vimeo.

I was playing around with the exposure settings in iMovie to adjust brightness in the video and now I realize that it’s lead to some artifacting, so please excuse that. Also there’s quite a bit of wind noise that I tried to turn down but it’s still pretty bad. Anyway, enjoy!

Big weekend at the cottage

Chris and I took Friday off so that we could do up a big Family Day / Valentine’s Day weekend at the cottage. It’s the first time we’ve been able to get there this winter, and of course this time we had the added challenge of taking Luna on her first big weekend road trip.

We’d tried taking her on a couple brief car trips a week ago (our failed attempts to introduce her to other dogs at the local off-leash park; I guess it was just too cold for the neighbourhood pooches/owners because no one was ever there). She was definitely anxious about the car but not totally freaked out. She just didn’t quite know what this driving around thing was all about.

For the two-hour cottage drive I opted to ride in the back seat with her, keeping her on leash so I could correct her for things like jumping up on the doors or the seat backs. The car ride for Zeus was such a traumatic experience that I’m anxious to make sure she is totally cool with it. Not that training (or lack there of) had anything to do with Zeus’s take on the car; his anxiety was involuntary and not of my making.

Luna - first time at the cottage

Luna Tuna playing in the snow

She was a bit anxious for the first 25-30 minutes or so in the car, but not in a panting-let-me-out-of-here-claustrophobia kind of anxiety. She was just looking around, trying to get comfortable, investigating what Chris was doing up there in the front seat. Eventually she just kept trying to find the best place to snuggle up and go to sleep.

I had set up the back seat in the standard way that I’d come to prep the car for Zeus and his slobbery panting dirtiness. I draped a heavy blanket over the seats, using a nylon tie-back to secure it to each headrest so it wouldn’t slip down. We have leather seats now, instead of the fabric of my old car, so I’m especially concerned about scratching. Eventually we want her to ride in the cargo area but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

On a trip to the Lindsay, Ontario Canadian Tire store however, we discovered a whole line of dog travel products, under the Kurgo brand, and picked up a very nifty pet car hammock, designed to strap around the head rests of both the front seats and the back seats. The whole thing is waterproof and very thick so it should hold up well over time. You can even unzip it so that a passenger can use the seat without removing it from the car. We had been looking for a barrier for the cargo area of our car but opted for this instead, which was only $60. Kurgo also makes a line of safety harnesses designed for safely restraining your pet in the car. We’ll probably pick one of these things up too, since the next step with Luna is traveling to my parents’ farm when I’ll be driving alone, so restraint will be especially important. Where were all these amazing products when I had a giant, 150lb slobbery, claustrophobic Saint Bernard?!

Because we’re still quite concerned about keeping her off the insides of the doors, we might commission a family friend to sew special snap-in panels that we can put inside the doors to keep her from scratching them. This was an area of the car that Zeus made totally filthy, but that was largely due to his constant panting and drooling, which so far doesn’t appear to be a problem we’re going to have with Luna. On the way home today, I sat in the front of the car, and she was snoozing within about 15 minutes on the road. Knock on wood, but so far this seems to be going as well as the crate training, becoming less and less of a concern for her with each try.

Luna - first time at the cottage

Pay special attention to the super cute tuft of hair on the stubby tail.

As far as my apprehension of how she was going to take to visiting a new house, well that was entirely a waste of worry. She took to the new locale without the slightest of issue. She didn’t care at all that the crate was different (smaller), or that she had to learn to pee and poop in a new place. No biggy as far as she was concerned. She even learned how to take flights of stairs on her own this weekend, a new trick she wanted to practice at every moment, because there were towels to be stolen from the bathroom, and garbages to get into, and oh! the possibilities!

Valentine's Day Brunch

Potato cakes with eggs and smoked salmon for Valentine's Brunch

As far as what us humans did this weekend… We had a lovely dinner out on Saturday night at the diamond-in-the-rough local (Lindsay) resto Little Schnitzel House. It came up with top reviews online, so we thought why the heck not? So what that every other guest in the 30-seat place was over 60? Our host, possibly at first quite skeptical of us, no doubt far outside their usual demographic, warmed up to our utterly sincere appreciation of their home-cooked authentic German fare. Chris grew up eating this kind of food after all, being of Lithuanian-cum-German background, so it all reminded him of his Oma’s cooking. Don’t let the kitschy decor fool you; the Little Schnitzel House may not have the glitz and glam of a polished fine-dining joint, but you won’t care once you tuck in.

They started us with a complimentary onion tart, served in a puff pastry with adorable tiny cookie-cutter shaped pickled carrots. I think this may have been my favourite dish of the meal because it was so unexpected and so delicious. Chris had the goulash soup and I had the onion, both lovely. Chris ordered the house platter, which came with sauerkraut, red cabbage, fried potatoes, spaetzle (a kind of noodle-like starch, made with flour, eggs and salt), bratwurst, ham and schnitzel. I had the jaeger schnitzel, served with mushrooms in a cream sauce, and pan-fried potatoes. Needless to say we were totally stuffed afterward.

My treat for Chris on Valentine’s Day itself was to make Jamie Oliver’s potato cakes with soft boiled eggs and smoked salmon for brunch. They turned out amazing. Potato cakes take a bit of prep time but they are so worth it in the end. Mine were perhaps a bit soft but it doesn’t really matter. Do I know the way to my honey’s heart, or what?

Valentine lovin’ at the cottage

February sunset

February sunset over Gull River

We’re at the cottage this weekend, taking advantage of the new Family Day holiday Monday to enjoy the calm, relaxing settings on a thawing Gull River. It is super sunny this weekend so after I change out of my jammies I just might have to go for a walk. Zeus and I were already out earlier for a constitutional, and again we saw the colony of wild turkeys that lives just up the hill in the bush. One of the locals feeds them so they are always around. They’re surprizingly large, charcoal black in colour and quite noisy. Oh and they can also fly fairly well, although sometimes I don’t think they give a lot of thought to landing, because one of two of them crashed their way into the trees. Turkey’s aren’t known for their brilliance after all.

Valentine lights

Flower shop near Bedford Park entrance to Lawrence Subway Station (taken with my Blackberry)

We went out to Terroni on Friday night to celebrate Adria’s birthday (which happens to be Valentine’s Day). I’ve never been there before but you can bet I’ll be going back. They have the most incredible selection of cured meat and cheeses, including a locally made procuitto, and they make spectacular thin crust pizzas. The location we went to is a newer one, in an old bank I think, on Adelaide Street just east of Yonge, and the decor is phenomenal. In the basement they have more seating and gorgeous wine cellars with jail gates for doors.

Dragon Scales for Adria

Dragon Scales for Adria

I made Adria some arm warmers for her birthday, and they were a HUGE hit. I used a mystery yarn that I got at a yarn swap a few years ago. I think its a wool blend, but its very soft and squooshy. I also added beading to them which totally dresses them up. The pattern is Dragon Scale Gauntlets by Annemarie Pearson, and they were a super quick knit up – I made them in about two days. This is the first time I’ve knitted with beads, so it was a bit of a trick to learn how to place them, but I figured it out. The only thing is that the beads are all on the same angle (right leaning), whereas it would have been a little more symetrical if the left side was leaning to the left, but I’m still very pleased with them.

Valentine Phalaenopsis

Phalaenopsis orchid from Chris

Finally, I have to give props to the boy for my Valentine’s Day present – a lovely white phalaenopsis orchid! I have one very similar to this already but it hasn’t been doing well for some time. It was very happy for many years, but ever since I moved from my Carlton Street apartment about 5 years ago, it has suffered from a failure to thrive. And considering Chris already thinks I have WAY TOO MANY plants, to give me one for Valentine’s Day is really something!

Hams for Thanksgiving

Posers

Haming it up

This was the first time the family was together at the new cottage in Coboconk (I know, I know its hilarious! People who live there call it “Coby”). The kids, Chris’s niece and nephew, were really into hamming it for the camera.

Squishy face

Squishy face

Mr. B is about 2 and a half, and he’s one of the happiest little kids I think I’ve ever met. If he falls, if he runs into something, he just gets back up and keeps on going. Nothing fazes this little guy. I just love this picture of him – its a bit out of focus but its such a perfect capture of his adorable squishy face.

Poser

Jia

Jia is 4 and she is infatuated with my knitting. She’s too little to figure it out yet but I’ve tried to show her on her own needles a few times. She mimics the motions and turns it all into a tangled mess but I’m encouraged that she’s so into it! When she gets a bit older…

Super boy in big shoes

Mr. B doing laps in mama's shoes

Again, not a perfect shot, but I love the light, the motion and the grin on Mr. B’s face (he’s running around in mama’s shoes).

BIG dog!

Boy, he sure is big.

And this was the first time the kids had really been around Zeus for any length of time. Zeus was in love with them of course, and they were really excited to go see him wherever he was, to help feed him and to pet him. Mr. B was particularly smitten (and Zeus reciprocated of course).

Giving thanks for a gorgeous weekend

Happy Turkey Day! I had the great fortune to spend a really beautiful weekend up in cottage country where the colours were on, full blast. I don’t know if I can remember such a perfect Thanksgiving weekend. It was easily between 20 and 25 degrees C, even up near Coboconk (locally known as “Coby”) and Haliburton.

Nature's last hoorah

Nature's last hoorah

After such a cool, wet summer, it was such a treat (and maybe something of a tease) to get this blast of sunshine and warmth. Top that off with the gilded scenery and I found myself in heaven, with a camera.

Nature's last hoorah

Afternoon Sun

Nature's last hoorah

Golden abstraction

I’ve got about 6 Gs of photos to edit so this is just a taste. We spent the weekend with Chris’s family at the Coby cottage, so there was lots of action with the nieces and nephew keeping us entertained.

Mrs. Mallard

Mrs. Mallard

This little lady duck flew in for a landing while we were hanging out on the dock Sunday night, and if I’d had my camera ready for it I would have captured a spectacular angle (she landed about 10 feet from the dock). Ducks look hilarious as they tuck their feet up to their bellies in preparation for the skid across the lake. But I wasn’t expecting her to give us such a show. I caught this shot instead though, which makes me happy. I swear she’s smiling, don’t you?