Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Grandest Voyage

A ship sails and I stand watching

till she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says,

"She is gone!"

Gone where?  Gone from my sight, that is all.

She is just as large now as when I last saw her.

Her diminished size and total loss from my sight

is in me, not in her.

And just at that moment when someone at my side says,

"She is gone,"

there are others who are watching her

coming over their horizon and other voices

take up a glad shout,

"There she comes!"

That is what dying is;

A horizon and just the limit of our sight.

Lift us up, oh Lord, that we may see further.

Bishop Charles Henry Brent

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Going Hybrid

We bought a new car today!  Yaaaay!  I've always been a "buy a good used car and drive it into the ground" kinda girl, but Eric believes in buying a new car and trading it in every five years.  Some lucky friend ends up buying Eric's used car, which he sells at the lowest dealer offer.  It just makes sense to have someone we know profit from Eric's good nature.

I put Eric onto Toyota years ago.  I've been driving them for 30 years now, and only cheated on them once with an unfortunate Acura.  When I met Eric, he was driving a beautiful Volks Jetta TDI that was an utter and total hanger-queen.  This car needed new bearings at 70,000 km, a new electrical system, and just had so many bugs that when he'd bring the car in for servicing (which was EVERY MONTH), the owner of our local Volks dealership would walk towards him with the keys from her car and silently press them into his hands, and shake her head in dismay.  It was pathetic.  After the TDI saga, Eric bought my ancient Toyota Corolla which he drove for years.  I think together we put over 500,000 kilometres on it.  It was so old that when our mechanic finally refused to work on it, we knew it was time.  Eric bought a new Toyota Echo and never looked back.

Something you need to know about Eric: he can afford a bigger car.  He can afford a more expensive car, but when you're parking your car at an airport for days at a time, driving a BMW or Mercedes just screams "scratch me!"  Eric even had the hubcaps stolen off his Yaris one year.  Imagine what would happen to a nicer car?  It would probably be stripped and up on blocks.  For Eric, the Echo was a means to an end.  Driving a smaller car meant smaller payments, smaller repairs, smaller gas bills.  It meant paying the house off faster.  (Yes, we had a mortgage burning party.  Forgot to tell you about it).  Eric does not live vicariously through his car.  It gets him from A to B and if it can handle a 2 x 4, all the better.  And when the time came to change cars, Eric surprised me.  He went out and bought a new Yaris, the updated Echo for those of you not familiar with Toyota.

You should also know that Eric and I do not really consult each other when we buy cars.  We're pretty independent, we know each other enough to trust that we won't come home with...well...another Acura.  (Eric warned me, he really did.  I was not ready to listen).  Today, however, I got to give input.  On the colour.  Why, I'm not sure because Eric ended up choosing the colour he wanted, not the colour I wanted.  I told him that I'd buy it from him in 5 years if he took a silver car, but he took blue instead.  Oh well.  I tried.  Better luck next time.

I'm sure you're just sitting there with bated breath, wondering what we ended up buying?  The new 2016 Prius!  We are in love!  And this car is so hot, so in demand, that even getting to test drive it is next to impossible.  One came into the dealership today, so we had our chance.  Off we went!  Up and down the highway, through a bit of construction (impossible to avoid, this is Montreal after all.  It will be a great city when they finally finish it.  We've been saying that since Expo '67) and back to the dealership.  Whoohoo!  Whodathunk?  The car is wonderful and we really, really enjoyed it.  Rather, I should say, Eric enjoyed it.  I just sat there, clutching my purse the whole time, too afraid to put my winter boots on the nice new mat.  I'm like that.  I did however tell Eric that I'm going to be dropping him off at the airport a whole lot more often,  just so I can keep his car.  That's not happening right now.  Eric can keep his Yaris.  I'm very happy with my Matrix.

The only downside?  The car will be delivered in June.  Just in time for my next update.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Clean your Wood Stove Glass the Eco Way

Move over commercial wood stove glass cleaner.  There's a better option in town, and it'll cost you 2 pieces of paper towel and some H2O:

Observe the morning after a nice, comforting fire.  Your glass is bound to be dirty.  There's a quick and easy solution.  Grab two pieces of paper towel, and a spray bottle filled with tap water.
I'm cheap so I use those choose-a-size towels.  Two little pieces will do for me.   Give the (cold) door a quick spritz, and the folded paper towel too.
Then dip your moistened paper towel in some white ash, and go to town on the door.
That's IT.  I mean it.  Spray your door with your water bottle once more, and remove the residue with your clean paper towel.  I've been doing this for years, and I promise you it's so much easier than those drippy, messy commercial cleaners.
VoilĂ !  Sparkling perfection.  Everything in life should be this inexpensive and easy.  Total time, start to finish?  A grand total of 3 minutes, photos included.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Wilfred Promise

I promised to tell you about our new Wilfred, rather Wilf III.  I'm here to make good on my threat.  A promise is a promise.

Wilfred the First came with the house, and one of the first things we did was to replace him with Wilf the Second.  The original Wilfred always gave us the impression that he was a pyromaniac in training.

Wilfred the Second lasted 15 years.  While that's not an eternity, and we hoped to eke a bit more life out of him, it wasn't to be.  The glass cracked last winter (the door was probably warped), and the refractory bricks were starting to crumble.  I tried calling Rika in Austria, but their customer service leaves much to be desired.  I can understand companies that deal only with distributors, but we learned that even Rika distributors slap their foreheads and say "aaach" with such disdain when asked about replacement parts.  Rika might want to consider revamping their mission statement and their day-to-day business dealings with some solid proactivity, but what can I say?  We won't have to deal with them again.

Ideally, we'd love to have a thermal mass heater made of soapstone, the kind that Tulikivi makes.  One day, when we build a new house, we're going to build that sucker right around a central soapstone heater and live happily ever after.

Our chimney is built along what used to be an outside wall, so the placement isn't ideal for a thermal mass heater.  We'd also need to build a concrete base in the crawlspace to accommodate the few tons of soapstone, and that ain't happening either.  When Eric starts to talk about 3000 psi air-entrained concrete and talk wistfully about his rebar bender, I quickly change the subject.  No real desire to go there, ever again.

So, we knew we wanted something modern with a touch of soapstone.  We checked on-line and narrowed down a few possibilities.  We particularly liked the Bari model, made in Germany by Hase and distributed through Hearthstone in Vermont.  They have dealers in Quebec, and after a visit to the showroom, we took a leap of faith and placed an order.  It's difficult buying a wood stove sight unseen, but we were offered a great price.  We also had confidence in the seller.  Plus, they took a cool thousand off the bottom line if we would pick it up and install it ourselves.  Whoohoo!  What's not to like?  We welcome a good DIY challenge, a chance to use our forklift, and the opportunity to have a shrink-wrapped stove sitting on a skid in the middle of the living room for 2 months.   Where do we sign up for this amazing offer?

What we hadn't considered was the new stove has a CENTRAL chimney and would require either an entirely new chimney, or some interesting calculations regarding elbows and whatnot.  In the end, Eric managed to figure things out, and ordered the parts he needed to adapt our existing chimney.

Time stands still in our house for a variety of reasons.  Installing Wilf III might have taken two months, but the wait was worth it. 
Here's another view.  This model can be turned 180 degrees, so we angled him a bit and found that it does radiate more heat where we want it.  People coming into the front door remark they can "feel the heat from here", which always makes me laugh.  That's the idea.  Welcome to radiant heat, and why we put up with ash dust and splinters and cutting our own wood.  There is nothing like standing in front of a wood stove until you can't stand it anymore.  It's like having the sun right in your living room.

You might have noticed that the wood is placed upright into the firebox.  We weren't too sure about this initially, but I'm convinced it heats better than the traditional stoves where the logs sit flat.  There's more flame in the firebox, coupled with the fact the firebox is circular, it seems to reflect the heat that much better.  It's like a half-pipe rotary incinerator, right in our very own living room.  It's also easier to light than the former, so we're giving it two thumbs up.  Time will tell if we've made the right decision, but as it stands right now, we're toasty warm and that's what counts.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

La Poudrerie

So, dear readers, here we are well into the double-digits of January.  Considering that our true winter started unseasonably late, one would think my mental reserves are full.

January 7, 2016

Think again.

My car has been stuck three times already, and in our own driveway to add insult to injury.  Last year, I stranded my car so often that when I took it to the garage for an oil change, my mechanic asked me what river I drove it into.  He kept it on a lift for 2 days to thaw it out.  That's how much snow I had stuck to my undercarriage.  I think my car stopped dripping sometime in April.

Hopefully we'll have a mild spell so that my car can thaw out a bit, but there's nothing in the forecast.  We'll dip down to -24C later this week, so things aren't likely to improve.  We are, dear friends, in the thick of things.

On Sunday night it snowed.  Environment CaCanada (as we call them in this household) told us we'd get 2 to 4 cm, which is nothing to get worried about.  We consider that white drizzle.  Come Monday morning, our cars were nothing but white blobs.  So much for "two to four".  Later that day, a cold front pulled through and with it the winds, which brings me to our french lesson.

Poudrerie is blowing snow, and right now, the poudrerie is driving me all shades of wild.  The plow drives by regularly, depositing yet another strata on the glacier that clogs the end of our driveway.  When I'm alone at home, I'm not even driving down the length of our driveway and parking near the house anymore.  No, I'm parking within 20' of the road, so our snow removal cowboy can just give a quick trim around the edges.  This morning, he came at 7:15 and cleared the snow right up to my bumper.  By 8:30, there were already 2 feet of snow at the road.  I had to call him and have him clear it again.  I'm staking out driveways down the street where there is no blowing snow, just so I can park in peace and know that I can leave the house and get to where I'm going without military-like planning.

Those of you who aren't familiar with blowing snow might wonder why I just don't shovel the white crap myself.  Well, the fact the windchill was -22C this morning was one factor.   The fact we pay our snow removal cowboy handsomely is another.  I also need to qualify blowing snow as the most obscene molecule nature has ever created.  I'm thinking of killing it with fire, that's how precarious my mental state is.  I'm sure I can pick up a second-hand Zamboni (google it, fer chrissakes) and we can simply run over it again and again and again until we have a high-quality skating rink.  Or maybe a steamroller?  Or if we win the big prize, we can get a heated driveway!  We'd probably need to win a Powerball billion to be able to afford that.  I digress, but blowing snow is packed and heavy.  You need power tools to slice it, that's how dense it is.

At this point, I think I'm going to come up for air in April.  Or maybe build an igloo.  It was fun when we were kids, I'm sure it could be fun again.

January 19, 2016
The above photo was tonight's sunset.  You can see the blowing snow over the fields.  We'll see just how much gets deposited by tomorrow morning.

As as added bonus, here's a photo of Jeep, or Flip-Flop as Eric has dubbed him:

Opposable Thumbs
And as an added-bonus-to-the-added-bonus (call now, operators are standing by!), here is my ravioli mould.  I made ricotta spinach ravioli the other day.  It's quite the production, and I attempt it once a decade.  Served with a nice tomato sauce, this was a meal that needed to be followed up with copious amounts of Poire William.  So so good!

Ravioli-Schablone von Betti Bossi
Tomorrow I'll show you our new Wilfred, aka wood stove!  Promises are promises.

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