naked cranberry neighbour oatcakes

Okay. What is it with nekkid neighbours? On any given day, without fail, somebody out there searches for “naked neighbour” and comes to my site.

The only thing on my site that’s searched for more often is “cranberry oatcakes”.

The reason that “naked neighbours” brings searchers to my blog is that I have neighbours who, when the weather is warm, live largely outside in direct eye view of my desk. They’re loud, and apparently unaware of the fact that other people can see and hear them. I even designed a header just for them! I kinda stopped writing about them though, it felt kinda icky.

Recently, my exceedingly handsome and handy husband put a new outlet into the south wall of my office, which allowed me to move my desk. I don’t have to look at the Next-to-Naked-Neighbours now. I try not to, I really do. They still don’t seem to grasp  the idea of window treatments, and I can tell you with a fairly high degree of accuracy what kind of orange juice he takes out of the fridge at night… when he opens it and the room is bathed in fridge-light, I can’t help but be able to see, if chance puts me in view of it. I love my sun room/office, but I avoid it at night so I don’t have to see them, and I avoid it on warm days because  I may hear their overly-loud cell phone conversations, smell their cigarette smoke, or (no, pleeeeease no!) hear those immortal words screeched from husband to wife in the driveway: “HEY?!  YOU ON THE TOY-LET?”

Actually, I kind of ignore that side of the house, now, to be honest. They recently cut down a lot of the foliage and trees in-between our houses, so in order to feel private, I have to look the other way. They built a giant addition that lacks symmetry; it’s not my business.

I understand them, sort of. They’re really involved in improving their property, and their house. They’re building, and really industrious. They probably don’t really think about my house, and the fact that they’ve made it almost impossible for me to not see into theirs. Maybe they’re bitching about me too, who knows? I want them to have some privacy, so I can have some. That requires that I not look over there, and that maybe I’ll have to just not look in that direction. It’s what we do, when we live in close proximity, right?

My blind eye is turned.

But really, I digress.

As interesting as they are, they aren’t the point. What I want to know is this:

Why, in the name of all that’s in a birthday suit, do so many people Google “naked neighbours” so often? Even more to the point: why, when there are about 2,270,000 results in 0.27 seconds (I checked) for that phrase, do they click-through to little ‘ole Box 761? I’m not even on the first page of searches!!

It’s very strange, and I spend just a little time each day musing about it. The only thing that really gives me hope is that Google has 271,000 hits for cranberry oatcakes.  It’s not 2

maybe I should be aiming for that intersection between the two?

million, but it’s a respectable number. I’m not sure what the demographic is of my readership, such as it is, but I’m pretty sure it’s more the oatcake crowd than the naked neighbour group.

Just FYI, here’s the post about oatcakes. They’re good. Really good. And FYI, I’m not at all anti-naked. I like naked. Just not in the adjoining yard, whilst smoking and arguing on the phone with power tools in hand. Or, like, without window treatments and getting an early evening OJ from the fridge.

It’s all about choices, really.

Cooking up a winter storm

I don’t know what it is, but I’m cooking a lot lately. Nesting, maybe?

It may not be helping me to keep my girlish figure, but oh, I’m enjoying it. The photo stream on my phone looks like a foodie’s Tour of Carbs…. probably the result of my going low-carb for several months in late 2011.

WordPress very helpfully noted in its year-end summary of my blog that “cranberry oatcakes” was the search term that most often brought readers to my site. I’ve decided not to fight it, and you’ll probably get a look at some of my creations here more often (they normally live on Facebook; I guess this will be their new, occasional, pied a terre.

In no particular order, my most recent food explorations. No recipes included, but if you want one, just request it in comments….

Oh, and the second most requested search term?

naked neighbours

garlic/thyme bread, and sesame seed bread. It is delicious, and yeasty warm butter-drippingly fabulous.

For dinner, we had Italian Wedding Soup. It was spicy and warm and comforting, but also seemed fresh and bright – really clean fresh and green. That’s the spinach and spicy sausage meat, marrying together. I hope they have a long happy life together.


A few days ago, I took it upon myself to explore the homely popover. They are a remarkable concoction – fluffy and high, crisp and warm outside, but soft and almost like custard inside. I made a savory one for dinner, with peppered bacon, spinach, tomato, onion and parmesan. Then the next day I had no choice but to try my hand at individual apple popovers.

no choice, I tell ya.



And then there is the best of all. The creme brulee. Oh my. Lime infused, heavy on the vanilla. Creamy, crunchy. Hot, cold, smooth and sharp. Is there anything nicer?


Nothing much else to say, except that I feel like I’m learning things, and it’s nice. It’s one of my happy places; that space I inhabit when I am puttering in my kitchen, puzzling through recipes, and figuring out the spot where science and art meet on my plate.

(note on the photos: all of them (c) 2012, taken by me in my kitchen on my iPhone)


I never realized just how much of my parents’ blend of French Canadian/Irish addictive-moody-guilty Catholicism I had absorbed until a tree hit my house and I thought it was a sign that I’d gotten too “cocky”.

I mean, really.

Yeah, I was having a hard week. Actually, kind of a hard month. Then I’d started feeling as if I could, you know, handle it. I’m nothing if not buoyant, and was starting to feel pretty dang good. I even threw a few more things on my plate (exchange student living in guest room, anyone?) because hey, I can handle it.

Then a giant tree fell on my house and instead of thinking “jeez, what a drag” I immediately thought that it was a sign. I was being smacked down for my hubris. Who the hell am I to think I’ve got a handle on things, right?

That's my house there, on the right. The one with, you know, the TREE on it.

So what is it that makes me think this way? If my history has taught me anything, I have learned without a doubt that I’m a fairly amazing individual with mad coping skills. I am a problem solver. It’s what I do. I’ve cultivated that characteristic, as a matter of fact — have had to, actually, because there always seems to be a fair number of problems that need solving.

The difference then, was this: I had no control over this. Most of the time my brain is going tic-tic-tic trying to avoid potential problems, solve emerging ones, and clean up after old ones. This time, we had hurricane-force winds that we didn’t really anticipate, a power outtage, a tree on the house, chimney pieces flying… and not a single thing I could do about any of it.

Perhaps it is hubris. Maybe I’m just stupid with control-freakishness and can’t see that soemtimes shit just happens, and I need to surrender to it. All this time I thought I was being plucky, when in fact perhaps my being ever on my guard for potential problems was in fact making things worse? Maybe all of this is just more narcissism?


I’m not in the mood to get all judgy on myself, frankly. I’m enjoying my newfound sense of being human and lacking the control necessary to stop trees from falling on my house. I’ve been calling insurance people, roofers and contractors, and arborists. They all know what they’re doing and I can therefore  stay in my house and bake gingerbread cookies, write in Box761, and read books. Perhaps I’ll watch some Buffy while I’m at it.

It’s a good lesson. I’m going to try to be more conscious of  screwy thoughts like “the universe is smacking me down” and cognizant that the appropriate response to those thoughts is to laugh.

Out loud. Long and hard.

I’m going to try and stop catastrophizing on a daily basis, because when a catastrophe does happen, it turns out that there are all sorts of things we can do to remedy the catastrophe, and it becomes merely another stop on the problem>solution cycle (almost all of which can be fixed by making phone calls from the comfort of what’s left of one’s home).

we showed it who's boss

And while I’m at it, perhaps I should just try to remove that whole Problem thing from my world view. Perhaps life isn’t a series of problem-solving exercises? Maybe it’s just, I dunno…. life?

As I write, I am stuffed with warm gingerbread, and my dogs have finally stopped barking at the roofers (who are still here banging away in the twilight, fixing my roof).  My only real problem to solve is what to make myself for dinner. My only regret is that I gave the rest of the gingerbread to the roofers.

I want to savor this moment of clarity. I know that sometime, probably obscenely soon, I will return to my musings on  the universe’s random events and why they are actually all about ME.


I have stuff. Lots of it. I really like stuff.

I have a particular fondness for books, which I don’t actually consider to be “stuff”, but which for my purposes here today can fit the category in a pinch.  I have spent most of my life not having enough shelf space for my books. They are piled on tables, on stairs, beside my bed… they’re everywhere. I can’t think of a room in my house that isn’t somehow housing at least a book or two. Mr. 761, on his last leave home, very kindly built for me another bookshelf — this one a built in, floor-to-ceiling in our bedroom. I have been meaning to write about it but wanted to wait until I’d primed and painted it, and populated it with books.

That’s taking too long (it’s too damn hot to paint, and I’ve been busy… I have it planned for this week though, really I do) so here are some photos of the shelves-in-progress:

Before: Dumb wall, doing nothing to make itself useful

Middle: Entirely useful wall, holding up my lovely shelves!

The “After” image is forthcoming…. I just have to prime/paint/fill.

I used to watch a television show about decorating, whose “hook” was that the friendly australian host/psychiatrist would talk the home owner into getting rid of most of their stuff…. it was always “cleansing” and “healthy”. I get that having too much stuff can tie you down, and it can paralyse you (hey, I watch Hoarders) and can in fact be a sickness. However, what bothered me about that show was that the supercilious host (who had no real training as a therapist, I’m betting) would have them throw out things that I tend to think are important… photos, old books, objects that had sentimental value (scoffing at that — as if sentiment is somehow suspect).

Just what the heck is wrong with keeping something because it’s meaningful? I actually have rocks that I’ve kept, because they have meaning to me. I like objects, and I like to attach meaning to them. As long as I have room for them (thank you for the shelves, honey), I think it’s okay.

I think about when my mother died, and how we three kids sat around, telling stories for days about her “stuff”…. we didn’t know how to divide it up, or how to ask for it, so we devised a fairly simple “game” — we each in turn would state the object we would like to have, and why…. the stories made us laugh and cry and really think about her. She was in those things. It was a lovely experience, such as it was, and the only thing that someone else “got” that I was sad about was her cookbook, which my brother took, quite rightly too now that I think about it. Each of those things — a cookbook, a painting, a set of coasters — wasn’t particularly valuable or fashionable, but they held deep meaning for us. Each time we told a story,  we strengthened our understanding of the woman we loved, and of the very different, though shared, relationships we’d all had with her.

When I’m at my brother’s or sister’s house, I see that my mother is there too — in that table, or those books on the shelf, or in the cookbook, still on the shelf there. That’s priceless, to me. I have objects that my kids know the provenance of (this was grandma’s, and I have it now because it was always special to me for x reason…), and I will leave them those things when I leave the earth. I do hope that no upstart decorator tells them to throw it out because it doesn’t match the decor! These things are the ephemera of history… they may just look like decorative/shabby stuff, but they’re important. 200 years from now, they might find my mother’s hen-shaped candy dish and put it in a museum. Who knows? They might titter over it’s silliness, but they’ll probably also hold it and realize that someone handed candy to her children  out of it, and that her littlest liked it because when the sun glinted off it, it looked like amber.

See what I mean? I know my world wouldn’t end if every single last bit of stuff I have burned up tomorrow, but I hope it doesn’t. I’m the curator of this crazy museum, and I like having it around.

I also like the hunt for stuff. It’s not all “heirloom” pieces like the aforementioned hen-shaped candy dish. Some of it is other people’s stuff that I rescue.  On our recent trip I showed admirable self-control and really didn’t acquire much. One thing that I did get, though, was this lovely thing:

Artist: Elaine Grover 1935

How wonderful is she? It was languishing in a  Vermont junk shop, in front of a mass produced “psychedelic” print and behind something else (a sad eyed clown? A big eyed ballerina?) AND she was mine, for FIVE DOLLARS.

Think about it. Some perfectly adequate painter named Elaine Grover painted this in 1935, and now 75 years later — an entire lifetime — it’s sitting in a junk store? How awful.

Perhaps it wasn’t a good likeness. The lack of a frame suggests that it was either never framed, or it was removed from a frame at some point. I feel sorry for Elaine, really I do (I Googled her, by the way — found nothing).

So, she’s come to live with me. I’m going to get her framed, and put her up with my other family portraits (well, some aren’t really family, but I like the look of them, and so have adopted them to the wall anyway).  I like the look of her, and have decided to call her Elaine (perhaps it’s a self-portrait?).

What has she seen, these past 75 years?

I didn’t mean to turn this into a rant, I really didn’t. I actually had intended on making it the first of a series of “Finds” — everything has a story, and if it doesn’t tell me the story, I make it up. I have photos of other finds — today, for example, I got 16 Granta magazines for 50 cents each! Can’t wait to read them, and they are pleasing to me — the design is pretty, and I like the trim size, the graphics, etc. On our last trip I also found a nifty little oil landscape, again adequately painted, but sort of folk-arty and I liked it. I was going to tell you about the junk store we wandered through in Lucan ON — fabulous place, and full to the rafters with STUFF, where we also got a line on tickets for the Lion’s Club draw for Mr. 761’s dream car. The store even smelled right, and the owner was right out of central casting.

I like it when I clean out the clutter in my space, but I don’t think my mother’s duck figurines are clutter. They are family memories. I can have those without the ducks, but I like for the ducks to be around nonetheless. I don’t want to sanitize my environment and remove my history  from it. Life can be messy and cluttered and I think it’s important that we learn to live with a little of each generation’s flotsam. It may not be decorator-ready, but when I look around, I see my life, tied to my mothers’ (yes, I have two or three), to my father’s, to my children.

I’m the conduit that brings my parents to my kids, and shows them that they’re part of a line, members of a tribe. They may not want to keep that candy dish, and that’s fine, but they have absorbed – I think — why I like it.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t go for $5 in a junk store someday.

Round, luscious, and almost ready…

Tomatoes. Oh they’re lovely.

A Million little juicy Bells

I planted one single little teensy weensy “Million Bells” and now have a whole lot of them getting ready to be picked.

Alas, I will be on a much-anticipated road trip with Mr. 761 when they ripen completely…. argh.

We all know I’m not a gardener. Not at all. However, I like that time in the spring (pre earwig and other buggies, pre-0vergrown weeds) when I can dream about it all. It was at that time that I planted this little guy up against my picket fence, amongst the sweet peas and lavender. Oh how I wish these bells would have tinkled before I had to go away for 10 days!

What are the odds that there’ll be some left when I get home? And I mean edible ones… not the ones that will have rotted on the vine while I was away, gaily rummage sale-ing my way through parts of New England and upstate New York. When I am happily visiting with my mother-in-law in Ontario, will these tomatoes be taking their sweet time to ripen sweetly, so I can have them when I get home?

Nature, alas, waits for no woman. I will therefore, charge a friend with eating as many off the vine as they can, while I’m gone. I want to know that someone will enjoy them. I’m just not planning effectively! Last time I went down to GA to visit my folks, all of my roses bloomed at once, and were distinctly not fresh when I got back.

I’m not sure how much posting I’ll be doing while away, but I’ll be taking photos and making notes so I’ll have stories to tell when I get back.

IF there are tomatoes left when I get back, I have some great recipes for them and will share. If there are no tomatoes, I’ll just sulk, I think.

761 Miscellaneous Events

I have discovered that if one does not schedule time for blog-writing, said writing often goes undone.

This past week Mr. 761 stayed up very late talking with a neighbor who’d come to visit (not the nearly-naked one). At around 3 o’clock, said neighbour announced “there’s a greyhound at your door” – something that doesn’t happen every day. Mr. 761 was perplexed, since we have a gate on to our back deck. Apparently the greyhound was clever with his paws, because thrice did he open our gate and look imploringly through the glass at Mr. 761 and our friend.

Perhaps he wanted to join them for a beer? Several had been imbibed previous to our four-legged guest’s arrival, apparently. I was woken up at 4 a.m. by Mr. 761 yelling at the dog, shoo-ing him away, and then calling to me from our back deck, up into our bedroom window.

“Joanie, did you hear that?!

What ensued was the type of conversation where I replied a few times, and then inquired if he knew it was &$@* 4 in the morning? and tried to ignore him thereafter.

However (and there’s always a however, isn’t there?) the magic bond between me and my sleep was broken. I started registering sounds, and activity downstairs. I also noticed a very strong odor of yet another visitor.

SKUNK. Weird that it sprayed so close to the house, we thought.

I got up. Met the canine visitor, and asked Mr. 761 if he smelled skunk. He said yes, but

Adorably goofy face, for a dinosaur/dog hybrid…

was more concerned with the citronella that the poor dog had been sprayed with (it had a citronella collar for the invisible fence it had breached to come visit us). We made a bed for it in the mud room, and went to bed. I got up again about 20 minutes later when I heard it nosing into the dog food bin that we keep in the mudroom. I removed that from it’s prodigious reach, and returned to bed – about 5 a.m. at this point.

I got up in the morning (Mr. 761 was feeling oddly “delicate” and so he stayed in bed for a while longer) and took photos of the dog and put a notice on Facebook. Through the magic of social networking we found the owner and the dog was returned by noon. What finally dawned on us, though, was that it wasn’t the odor of citronella that lingered in our house, but that of skunk. My house still smells like skunk, in places where the visitor dog (later discovered to be named Cappuccino) had lain.

Mr. 761 has been doing a lot of laundry, and we’re trying to air out the place as much as we can. I had to throw out a rug, and am fighting the necessity of throwing out another.. .I like it, and can’t remember where I got it. It’s the perfect color for the room it’s in. I am hoping that the pong of skunk will dissipate if I spray enough febreeze in its direction.

is this dog laughing at me?

What I can’t figure out is why it took me so long to figure out that the dog had been sprayed by a skunk. It’s funny – I washed the dog’s face and haunches where Mr. 761 had pointed out citronella stains (what? how stupid are we?) and still didn’t figure it out.Perhaps we didn’t want to admit it. Perhaps Mr. 761’s ability to make logical conclusions was impaired, but what’s my excuse?

Regardless, the dog’s owner was very happy (though she looked at me sideways when I discussed the citronella collar spraying her dog ha ha ha!).

It has been a great week so far. Nothing earth-shattering, but it’s lovely to have friends over for dinner and to have Mr. 761 home. It was great to see our friend Dennis twice in one week – you’re always a pleasure to have over, Dennis. We miss our kids, but saw them both this week, briefly. We’re gearing up for some social events today and tomorrow, and then off on a 10-day road trip to Ontario. Life is good.

And with that said, I’m off to buy shoes. Can it get any better?

Thanks for all of your comments to the blog. I really appreciate them, and like to know that people are reading.

Noise and Pylons, Call of Duty and Springrolls

This has been a fairly busy week. Mr. 761 is home, and quite diverting company. The sound track to the week has been the construction going on right outside the house. The

That used to be my driveway

town is replacing sewer mains or something, and it’s a big job.  The road is blocked off with pylons, and I’ve striven to be nice to the Pylon Guys. When this all started, the Pylon Guys were pretty eager and perky on the job. As time passes, they become less so. When it rains, they don’t even bother with the middle pylon — they mostly just sit in their trucks and smoke. Sometimes they put the middle pylon in and jump to get it so you can drive by. Other times they wait until you stop and then they lumber over, to make sure you have a purpose to go past the pylons. Living here counts.

So, Mr. 761 and I had Erica in the car and… well, I’ll let his facebook entry tell the story:

Mark Hey, guy at the end my street who’s job it is to move the traffic cone at the “local traffic only” sign during the sewer construction: could you pick up the pace a bit? Yes, your lawn chair in the shade looks mighty comfy but when you see me driving towards you (for the 3rd time that day), you can assume I want to get …to my god damn house and get up off your ass before I come to a complete stop.

[…] I just figure if you’re going to be a cone mover, you should try to be the best damn cone mover you can.

Perhaps Mr. 761 takes these things too personally?

Aside from the Cone Guy’s lack of professional pride, the other issue is the noise.  At first, they were at the far end of my road, and it was kind of lovely — only local traffic coming through during the day, so no loud trucks etc. Then it got closer. They blocked my driveway (without telling me before hand by the way — Mr. 761 drove across our lawn to get out), they dug a giant hole, they filled the hole. Then the next day they unfilled the hole, did more work, and moved down the road a bit. It’s all very complicated and I’m sure they know what they’re doing but the only really quiet time is when they’re all having lunch (seems to start at precisely 12:05 every day).

So, the din is considerable. And dust, oh lots of dust. As I said, though, the noise abates at 12:05. Or does it? What I get once the infernal groaning, creaking, back-up-beeping and digging stops is this weird background noise. What is it?

Xbox.  Call of Duty. That’s what.

Mr. 761 is now the proud owner of very expensive but very much appreciated wireless

Ah, the sweet sound of silence!

headphones that allow him to kill people and be killed in peace. My peace. I love him, I’m very happy he’s home. But if I hear that annoying game one more time I’m going to… um, well, I don’t know what I’ll do.  But I won’t be happy.

I don't get it. Really I don't (note the blood splatter on the top right hand corner of the screen). Blech.

There’s a whole crazy process to Call of Duty (COD) in our house. There are rules if there are two players (no screen watching!), and it takes at least 4 hours at a sitting. I find the whole thing repellant — the blood splattering, the cheers when they “kill” someone…. the hyper-reality of the look of the thing. Mr. 761 plays it laying down, for some reason.  There is a total focus when they are playing the game, which can go on for hours — many hours — at a time. It appears that by sitting in a room together and playing this (on separate parts of the screen), staring forward, my husband and daughter are having some sort of quality time.

I don’t get it.

Spring Rolls

Today I made my take on Vietnamese style spring rolls for lunch.  I was at the store looking for curry paste, and my daughter saw the rice paper that you need for the rolls on the shelf. I’ve never seen them like that, and fell in love with the packaging. This happens a lot, especially with asian food products for some reason.

They’re in the “foreign food” section of my local Superstore, and aren’t expensive. There are a lot of them in the package (enough to make 60 rolls). They’re low calorie, gluten free, and don’t require cooking.

I love food that’s wrapped in something, and was bored with pita, and tortillas, etc. so this is a great alternative. It’s dead easy to do — drop one paper in warm water for 4 minutes or so, take it out, wrap your filling in it, and cover with damp towel until all completed.

Ours were made with left over slaw from the night before (kholrabi/cabbage/onion/red pepper/radish with sesame seeds and almonds… see previous post from 24 July 2010), some pre-cooked shrimp, bean sprouts and some cilantro.

Loaded, but not rolled yet. It's on a red tea towel, hence the funny color.


If you can roll a tortilla, you can do this. Try to use fillings that have contrast, because you can see through the paper once it’s wrapped.

Vermicelli would be good, and I kicked myself once I realized I had a bunch of tabouli salad that I could have put in there too.

These were generously filled, and we each had only 2 or 3 and were full. You want generous ones, because otherwise the all important food-to-wrap ratio would be off.

We dipped these in peanut sauce that Erica created. It will be impossible to replicate that sauce (in a pinch you can mix hoisin sauce with peanut butter, and add a pinch of crushed peppers).

I loved these. They were bright and refreshing, but filling. They’re pretty, like little  jewels wrapped in Isadora Duncan’s white scarf.

They are the opposite of Call of Duty.

Authenticity & Animals

Had a good day. Slept in (after getting up at 6 with the dogs, we all trooped back to bed), had a leisurely time reading the paper and puttering around the house. There’s nothing nicer, is there? Clean kitchen, calm happy animals, fresh coffee, a tidy perfectly un-read paper waiting to be laid open and savored. I ate yesterday’s slaw (click on calendar to the right of your screen, or scroll down) and found to my delight that it’s even better the next day.  Ah. A perfect Sunday.

Met someone in person today who I’ve talked to on Facebook for a year. We’d never actually met in person. What was great was that we didn’t really have to introduce ourselves and the conversation was easy and familiar and really pleasant. We have a lot in common and I really enjoyed my day. Thanks for coming by, and lets do it again!

My father can’t quite figure out Facebook, and thinks it makes no sense. Some people think that it distances people from one another. I disagree — it can allow you to hold people at a remove or  create false intimacy, but the other choice is that you can be real, and make it a tool for communication.

It’s the same choice you make every day of your life — to be authentic, or not.

Anyway. Now my evening is coming upon me and I have no plans more complicated than reading and trying to ignore the nonsensical argument the next-t0-naked next-door neighbors are having at present (something about the barbecue, I think). I’m a little worried about his cough, it’s getting worse.

To be fair, they’re actually fully clothed today…..

I added a new link onto my blog roll today — Confessions of a Closet Artist. Beautiful photography, and it’s clear that her inner artist is out and doing great things.

Tomorrow Mr. 761 is home for a month of leave from Kandahar. He’s home one month out of every three; it’s actually a pretty good schedule. This will be the first leave that he’s had in a year and a half that we’ll be alone for most of. The kids are both out doing their own thing this summer — university and working/staying at the local military base respectively), so we’ll have the place to ourselves. Weird, but nice. Like anything it will take a bit of an adjustment, but it’s good practice for when the younger goes away to culinary school next year. My nest is already half-empty, but for him it will be new — he’s been in KAF through all of these changes in the past year and a half. He’s been home for one leaving the nest, but not really for the continuing reality of that empty spot… it’ll be good for him to acquaint himself to it.

After weeks of oppressive heat/humidity, everything is clear and lush and greenly cool today. Birds are darting all over the yard, and I couldn’t get my camera fast enough to take a photo of the little wee bird who likes my front stoop. So here are some photos of the animals who live indoors at Box 761:

Flowerpot. She's orange and sits in windowsills, what can I say?

Bo. If cats had mugshots, this would be his (check out the fangs)

Henry. The sweetest dog. He's "sensitive".

Memphis. Retired service dog, enjoying retirement very much.

Box 761

The header picture for this blog is a bit of my house (box 761), surrounded by trees.

I love my house.

One of the reasons I love it so much is that it is literally and figuratively something I never thought I’d have. I met my husband when I was in my 30’s — I had already pretty  much decided that I wasn’t ever going to be married. Really, I wasn’t that type. I’m not sure what type I thought I was (since I was at the time a fairly broke, marginally-employed 30-something living in a crappy rental with my two cats), but I’m pretty sure that I pictured myself, in that magical someday, living a deeply cool urban lifestyle – with a guy who read me poetry in bed and had a rakish way about him. I think I was taller and didn’t have freckles in that dream too….

However, there’s nothing that a little bit of skillfully done therapy can’t fix. One day, without realizing it, I met my man (he is a tad rakish, but there’s no naked poetry spouting going on here, that’s for sure) and if you cycle forward a few years we were buying this house in a small rural community of 2400 people.

(I’m sure that this story will unfold eventually, but I want to get to the good stuff right now — the house)

My house was built in 1899, the same year my grandpa was born. He’s no longer around, but this house is sitting pretty. Here’s my house in 1943.  In 1944 they covered in the porch to make the sunroom from which I write this in 2010. It is my favorite room, but I find myself aching to have a porch. I’m working on that.

Box 761, in 1943

If you look at the photo, you’ll see that aside from the admittedly lovely (and mourned) porch, there is a building in the back. That no longer exists. I love that if you look carefully, you can see someone sitting on the roof of that old back building (barn? woodshed?). I would imagine that’s why someone stood outside on the front yard and took the photo, right?  Of those two trees in the foreground, only the one on the left still exists. It’s gorgeous, and half again as large.

I think about how lovely it must have been to walk by those trees, and to step up the generous stair to the porch. I hope they had a few comfortable benches or chairs out there for people-watching, for sitting peacefully on a summer evening. I wish I could see the roof line of that porch though — I want a template for the one I am planning, eventually, to build.

I can tell that this was taken before that blessed day when someone planted the lilacs that I stare at in the early summer out my window. It was definitely before my Victoriana-mad previous-to-me owner planted the silliness that is my front garden. See how nice and balanced it all is? Admittedly, it’s a black and white taken in the late fall or early spring so there’s not much around, but I can tell that the house (at this point an already mature 44 years old) wasn’t fussy and full of itself. It is what it is – a nice Victorian farmhouse.

This is my house now. I do wish that I had gone out and tried to replicate the exact spot and angle of that first photo, but I’m too lazy and have used an old photo from 2003.

Box 761, in 2003

Not much really has changed, though I’m not keen on the beige siding (and we know how I feel about a porch…). I’ve always wanted a yellow house, and would love to make that happen. Funny — we built an addition onto the back of the house (pretty much where the old back building was in 1943) and when we took the siding off, the clapboard underneath was the buttteriest, yummiest, most beautiful yellow of my dreams. Go figure.

Since I took this photo, someone stole my American flag, and the Canadian one broke off in a storm and I haven’t replaced either. Who steals a flag? sheesh.

In this town, there are quite a few old guard who know this as the “old Creighton House” after Sam and Ruth, who lived here I dunno when. Perhaps that’s Sam up on the roof? I’ve heard stories of them — they lived here with their folks who, as folks do, died. Sam and Ruth lived here together, neither married. Sam had “shell shock” and Ruth worked at the bank down the street and was found walking, confused, in her night gown one day.  I’ve heard that Ruth was a pack-rat and that the porch was full of old newspapers. I don’t know if any of these stories are true, but I do wonder if Ruth chose the wallpaper in the master bedroom closet. If it was her, she is to be commended for her good taste.

To newer residents, the house is sometimes known as “the American’s House”. I didn’t help that with the aforementioned flag, but what they refer to is the brief two-year stretch when an American military officer lived here, oh, about 11 years ago now (we’ve had it for 7). Again, my flag may have contributed to the name catching on. That, and the fact that my husband was in the military as well. I have dual American/Canadian citizenship, so I guess the name is factually correct, but it’s not a particularly warm nickname….

I wonder what stories they’ll have of us, 40 or 50 years from now? I hope the future owner likes my wallpaper choices (more on those another day). I hope they like the bathroom we built. I hope they know that this was a happy house; that even if it’s beige it’s really a happy yummy yellow deep to it’s core.

I hope they don’t rip down the porch I built in 2015.

A little bit of therapy, some really good luck and being in the right place at the right time, and here I am. That kind of person. The kind of person who plants bushes so her grandchildren can some day play around them.  A woman who can see the arc of history behind her and ahead of her, and who hopes that even if she walks downtown in her nightie someday, someone will know where to guide her home.