Sunday, March 29, 2015

mudding the walls

It's at this time of year that R and I usually escape to the Gaspé. I sit by the fire where I read, write and knit. I stare out at the trees and the frozen St. Lawrence. Stomp around outside on snowshoes.

I didn't go last week. R had almost finished putting up the drywall on the second floor. Next step was plastering. The plaster--more colloquially called mud--has to be mixed to the consistency of cake icing, then scraped across joints, into corners, along edges. To make a smooth, even coat, you have to swipe a great swathe of mud all at once. The work requires skill, muscles and finesse. A friend of ours had agreed to come wield his trowel.

I knew the house would get messy with the two men working and decided not to go along--and am glad I didn't when I heard the stories. Especially the one about the Atlantic winter having been so long and cold that, all along that stretch of coastline, the pipes to the wells froze so there was no running water. How did they manage? Pots of melted snow and jugs of water from the neighbour whose well was in her basement. She'd poured boiling water down the pipes so they didn't freeze.

When R bought the house in 2010, the upstairs walls were a patchwork of boards that had been covered with posters, drawings, messages and doodles.

In 2011 he and a friend (same good friend) gutted the upstairs.

Insulation and 2' x 4' studs went up.

With the upstairs underway, he and I started work on the outside of the house. It took a while because we only visit the house 2 or 3 times a year and obviously don't want to spend all our time by the sea painting and sanding.

We didn't renovate the first floor ourselves. We had an amazing contractor--Bruno Thibeault of Sainte Anne des Monts--who knocked in larger windows, insulated the walls, moved the bathroom, replaced  the flooring, raised the kitchen counters from mid-thigh to hip level (people used to be shorter), installed a slow-burning wood stove and more.

At each visit R added a few more studs then a few more sheets of drywall to the upstairs.

Since the floor, which we decided to keep as is, was crooked, the edges of drywall didn't always match and I expected we'd end up with walls that had a few gaps and bumps.
So I'm very impressed with the pictures of the work done last week. Even the nail heads covered! Next time we'll be able to start painting.

Mudding: strange word for a process that makes for clean, smooth edges.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Thursday, March 12, 2015

ukuleles and biscuit clocks

I was in Toronto a couple of weekends ago and spent a day with my friend Randi who plays ukulele. She had a gig coming up and her uke was sick. Something to do with the tuning pegs.

I am not at all musical, but even I know where to find the tuning pegs on an instrument. Randi had called the amazing ukulele doctor who, like any good doctor, didn't want to give a diagnosis over the phone. She asked if would mind coming with her to the Twelfth Fret and off we went--and wow, were there ever instruments!

I wish you could hear the sound. There were several of these small rooms off the main aisle where different musicians were noodling and twanging strings. 
There were some younger people, but I noticed a wealth of grey and white hair.

There's Randi waiting for the doctor to look at her uke, but the woman with banjo was there first. The guy in the middle is just some guy with opinions. The women aren't listening. 
Here's the doctor.

I took closeups of his hands because I loved how he used his tools, but those pictures are blurry. He was moving so fast--though slowly, too, because we waited for a couple of hours for him to fix all that was wrong. Not just the tuning pegs. 
We left the store at one point to go have a coffee and ended up at the Viking Bakery--the only Icelandic bakery in Toronto. I'm pretty sure it's the only one because the Icelandic community in Toronto only numbers about 100. So the baker told us. Randi wondered why he'd decided to open a bakery at the Woodbine subway in Toronto. He said a woman who used to make wedding cakes had owned the bakery before him. I guess the rationale was that people in the area who used to come to the store for their wedding cakes might step in and have an Icelandic trapezoid. ??

He was friendly and if you find yourself far east in Toronto at the Woodbine subway, you should visit the Viking Bakery. One big drawing card would be the biscuit clock. 

We returned to the Twelfth Fret and waited for the Ukulele Doctor to finish. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Another Story Book Shop, March 1st, 2015

Last weekend several Montreal writer friends converged to read at Another Story Book Shop on Roncesvalles in Toronto. Thank you to Christine Fischer Guy for hosting us, Another Story for providing the venue, the Quebec Writers' Federation and the Canada Council for sending us.

Here we are before the start of the event. Then: Elise Moser, Monique Polak, Shelagh Plunkett, Susan Gillis, Kathleen Winter, myself. You can see we believe in emphatic readings.


I'm not trying to make a statement with the layout here. I can't figure it out.

Here's the effervescent poster Kathleen made for us. Bridges, wings, and factories!

Thank you to Randi Helmers for taking pictures--and bringing her ukulele.

knitting infinity

I knit a friend what's called an infinity scarf. I used Malabrigo Rios which I highly recommend. It's merino wool, the colours are rich, the texture lovely.

I had some trouble knitting the scarf. I'm not sure why. The stitches were easy--a variation on knit and pearl. The idea of the moebius strip kept tripping me up. These scarves are supposed to lie flat when inert. They only twist when looped around the wearer's neck and head. I kept adding a twist when I joined the knitting in the round. I didn't mean to. I didn't want to. I had to start the project over again several times. Once I even wondered if it mattered--since the scarf was going to be looped anyhow.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

doubt in English versus Spanish / the subjunctive

I am trying to understand the many uses of the subjunctive in Spanish. I'm familiar with the verb mode since I had to learn it once upon a time in French and in German.
In English we tend to avoid using the subjunctive in the rare instances when it can still be used.
Examples would be...
"We advise that he try to talk to her."
"If she were to buy apples, he would make a pie." Most people would say, "If she bought apples, he would make a pie."
There are other examples, but I'm not writing about the mothy use of the subjunctive in English.
I'm studying for a Spanish exam, specifically the subjunctive, which is used frequently and with great variety. I had hoped to learn it just enough to recognize it when reading. I didn't actually want to learn how to use it. Of course, I didn't realize how often it's used.
I went to the Spanish bookstore, Las Americas, on St-Laurent to find a book I could read comfortably. I ended up in the YA section and bought a book for 10-yr-olds and up. I can read it without a dictionary, and more or less understand the words I don't already know from the context. It's called Luna de Senegal, by Agustín Fernández Paz, and is the story of girl who emigrates from Senegal with her family to Spain. The illustrations by Marina Seoane are lovely.

However, I was astounded by the range of verb modes in a simple story for children. The present, the futuro perfecto, the conditional, the pretérito, the imperfecto--and the subjunctive.
In Spanish the subjunctive must be used for any number of expressions. Some examples: It is necessary that, I want that, I hope that, Maybe, Hopefully, As soon as, In order that, How great that, How awful that, There is no one who...
Rather than memorize lists, I would sooner try to understand the rationale. Our teacher, Alicia, says that the instance there's a nuance of doubt or subjectivity the subjunctive must be used. I understand the concept.
But here's my problem: "I don't think that he's coming" obviously signifies doubt. But to my way of thinking, "I think that he's coming", equally implies doubt. If I were sure, I would say, "He's coming." I wouldn't add the hesitation or uncertainty that my Anglo ears hear in "I think that". Ditto for "I believe that". "I believe that" sounds entirely subjective to me. A rhetorical flourish that intimates an awareness I might be wrong. ???
And now we get into the even foggier realm of "It appears that..." Appearance is not real. Appearance is what you imagine or think or suppose or is likely. It might end up being real, but in the moment a person says, "It appears that...", that person has a reason for not saying, "It is..."

And yet, in Spanish, "it appears that" does not take the subjunctive!
I don't get it.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

bye bye door (1902 - 2015)

The windows needed to be changed. This winter especially. The house was leaking heat at a speed that was only beat by the wind chill seeping in. I dreamed of swivel-clean, repels dust, Energy Star, NFRC* windows with U-Factor, Solar Heat Gain, Visible Trasmittance numbers of the highest order. If we were going to embark on this project, let's do it right.
Knocking out the old windows during the coldest February in Montreal in 20 yrs wasn't the ideal start, but we had a date. Bye bye windows, no regrets.

However, I will miss the carved wooden door that was as old as the house. Here and there, when walking through Pointe St-Charles, you occasionally see one or two of the original doors.

They are darling, aren't they? But you can see how much cold they let in. The owner here at 1057 has put plastic inside the glass.
When we bought our house in 2001, I spent the first summer stripping the entrance of the beige and chocolate paint the previous owner had found attractive. R went through a tub of wood putty to repair the cracks and chips in the door. I mixed and matched various stains to get the different woods more or less the same hue. We loved the look of the door, but even with weather stripping, in the winter we always had a snowdrift inside the house.
So... there goes the door. 1902 - 2015. We haven't decided what we'll do with it now that it's been retired from the top the steps. We might hang it on a wall. I was thinking it would make an interesting headboard.

*National Fenestration Council Rating