An Unwanted Guest

Last week Florian left the basement door open for a few minutes, just long enough for a mouse to  sneak in the open door. I saw it and chased it with a broom, but of course it disappeared under the pantry door which is located under the stairs and refused to come out. Then in the night I heard a racket in the kitchen and I got up to see what all the commotion was and when I turned on the light a mouse sprinted across the room and squeezed its tiny body under the gap between the door and fled the scene to the basement.

The next day I placed three mouse traps in strategic locations to catch this uninvited guest. Two days later and still no mouse in my traps, but some signs that it (hopefully only one visitor) is enjoying its new home.  By now, I started to panic and decided the best  solution was a cat.  

I went to see a neighbor who has a few strays hanging out near his place and instead of bringing home a mature cat that could actually catch a mouse I brought home an adorable baby kitten.

The little monkey has no manners and follows me constantly. He is not allowed on the sofa or chairs, but he keeps trying to climb on them and I have to watch him like a hawk to make sure he stays off the furniture. He doesn’t want to go outside and play like a normal kitten. No, he just wants to stay inside and torment me.

I made him some toys to keep him busy and out of trouble. He plays with them sometimes, but I am convinced that he prefers to annoy me.   If he continues to demand constant attention I might lock him in the basement for a week with the mouse!

DIY toy made of wood, an old hanger, some twine, and a jiffy pot.

 

DIY house made out of a cardboard box.

 

Good-bye Clutter

It has been months since my last blog post because my life got busier than expected. I landed a short-term position for the summer which involved working shifts, long drives, and an agreement promising not to write anything about the job on any form of social media. Consequently, I decided to avoid blogging for the duration of the job to be on the safe side. In addition, at the end of August I signed an oath promising never to discuss the gig after the completion of the contract. There is nothing to say other than I am happy that it is finished.

In the spring, we bought a new house and spent the month of May slowly moving from the cabin to the house. It is a three bedroom bungalow with a full basement. It was gutted and completely rebuilt five years ago, so it only needed some cosmetic touch-ups like new paint, window screens and a few minor repairs, except for the kitchen cabinets which required a new updated look. We used Rust-Oleum cabinet coating system to redo the cabinets. I am pleased with the end result, but I would not recommend this to anyone who does not have tons of free time on their hands. The whole process, starting with cleaning and deglossing, applying two bond coats, adding a decorative glaze, and applying a protective top coat to protect against stains and scratches, is extremely time-consuming. Here is a before and after photo of one section of the cabinets.

The new house has a wood and oil furnace in the basement. I don’t plan on using oil because it is too expensive. Last March I met a man when I was skiing on his property in my quest to find chaga. We started chatting and he ended up giving me enough wood for the winter. It was already cut and scattered over his lot. My brother helped gather it up and brought it to my place with his truck and trailer. Then Florian and I split it and piled it up to dry.

As for the cabin, we still go there two or three times a week to feed the stray cat and look after the garden boxes. I have no idea what I am going to do with this place. Even after I moved, the garage is full of stuff.

For example, I have a beautiful antique organ and a new exercise twister, but I have absolutely no use for them. I tried to give them away on kijiji, but there were no takers. Actually, that is not true. Two or three people would take the organ if I would deliver it. The Ab-Doer twister has only been used two or three times and it  costs over $300 on Amazon, but I couldn’t give it away for free!

In the end, these items and most of the other junk will have to find a new home in the local landfill. Although I hate to throw away things I have decided if I have no use for something in the foreseeable future then I am eliminating it from my life.  Otherwise, the garage will never be free of clutter.  I am determined to declutter the garage before I start my next job in a couple of days, so that means I better get started now.

Frozen Pants

I have too much free time on my hands again. The temperatures this week dipped to minus 20º C and this put a damper on my quest to find a chaga source. Most days my cross-country ski outings lasted about 60 to 90 minutes before I scrambled back to the cabin to get warm in front of the fire.

However, I heard an interesting interview on the CBC Radio program As It Happens on Friday evening with a man from Minnesota, USA who suggested Canadians suffering from winter boredom, could get involved in a fun activity called “frozen pants”. The man believes that Canada, with its frigid temperatures, should be a mecca for “frozen pants”.

Now, I am not sure that there is any point to this silly activity, but I have no pressing chores or anything else on the agenda this weekend, so why not take a stab at “frozen pants”.

It is easy – just take a pair of pants, soak them in water, put them outside, watch them freeze, and then put them on display for your neighbors to enjoy. Since it was too cold for me to go skiing this morning I sent my jeans skiing instead. Here they are enjoying the winter in Canada.

Frozen Pants out skiing.

Frozen Pants out skiing.

Frozen Pants

Frozen Pants

 

 

From the Cubicle to the Cabin

I packed up my cubicle in July and returned to Canada. Although I don’t miss my tiny cubicle I sometimes long for all the free time I had there. In my cubicle I often struggled to fill my day with tasks and activities whereas now I strive to find the time to do all the things I want to do. There is always something that needs to be done at my cabin and I find little time for blogging.

During the summer I finally completed the abandoned building that I started renovating in the  summer of 2014 to use as a mini-gym. I used pine boards for the walls and ceiling and then painted them with a clear veneer. I painted the floor with some leftover gray paint that someone gave me instead of putting down a new laminate floor as I originally planned. Then I put a fold-up tatami matt that I got in South Korea about fifteen years ago in the center of the room as a rug. Then I decided to transform it into a mini-yoga studio and a place to practice my hobbies instead of a room for my treadmill.

The building is a bit bare, but eventually I hope to furnish and decorate it. For starters, I restored an old table that I discovered abandoned in the woods last summer. It had several layers of paint and many rough spots. It took a few hours to remove the paint with a scraper, plain the top of the table and then sand it off as smooth as possible before staining it dark brown. Now, I am on the lookout for a chair to match my table.

In addition, I stained an old bookshelf to match the table. I am using it for ornaments. As soon as I find some cheap material or old curtains at a yard or rummage sale I will make some curtains. I stored the patio table and chairs along with my soap making equipment in the corner for now.

This brings me to my first batch of homemade soap. Let’s just say the end result is not very attractive – not exactly something to show off on your blog. Actually, the goal was to make some chemical free soap using natural ingredients, so even though it looks a bit rough it has a nice texture and it keeps my skin from drying out, especially in the winter months. Before I make my next batch I am going to make a wooden mold to place the silicon baking pans in so that the soap will be square instead of curved.

After my failed garden in Nizwa I was determined to have a successful one in Canada. Before I arrived Florian was in charge of preparing the soil, sowing the seeds and transplanting seedlings and protecting them from late frost. He did a fantastic job. The garden was ready and waiting for me to take care of it. The garden flourished thanks to the long, hot summer and we enjoyed fresh vegetables from the beginning of August through to mid-September. The cucumber, beans and tomatoes were abundant. We couldn’t eat them all, so I made pickled beans, relish, bread n’ butter pickles and salsa. Now, I am getting tired of eating this stuff.

I rearranged the garage and found a suitable place for the treadmill in a section of the garage that I use for storage. I only plan on using this machine when the weather is rainy, snowy or extremely cold, so it is not necessary to have a special building for it. Yet, I keep pondering the idea of converting part of the garage into a rec room.

The winter is in full force with plenty of snow for cross-country skiing. Santa Claus dropped off a new set of skis at my house and I am discovering new muscles aches as I venture out in the woods on my skis in search of chaga. So far I have come home empty-handed, but I have not given up on finding my own source and eventually I will stumble across or ski into a birch covered in chaga. I am also busy knitting a scarf for my cat with some left over yarn.

I will be back soon with a photo of my cat with his new scarf and hopefully some chaga.

Change can happen

Life in my cubicle is not exactly exciting of late, but I am quite happy about the positive changes happening in my homeland. A few short weeks ago the Progressive Conservatives with Jim Prentice as premier confidently called an early election with 70 of Alberta’s 87 seats in the provincial government. However, they didn’t realize that Albertans were fed up with ten years of incompetent government that put their party and their business partners’ interests ahead of the people. So, when New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley stepped up to the plate and offered a viable option to a party that came to symbolize arrogance, corruption, cronyism and fiscal mismanagement the citizens sent Jim Prentice and his team to the curb.

Worst PM

If change can happen in Alberta, once a bastion of Conservative support, then it is safe to say that change can happen elsewhere. Soon change will sweep the entire nation in October 2015 when Canadians, tired of conservative propaganda, negative attacks on our values, corruption, government ineptitude and irresponsible fiscal management send Stephen Harper and his Conservative government into the history books.

Help Me Survive Life in a Cubicle

Sharing an office with several people offers a few challenges to say the least and it also provides an opportunity to discover the importance of getting along well with others. However, it has me wondering how much space does one employee need to be able to carry out their duties in an effective and efficient manner? Am I the only one who struggles with being crammed into a small work area and having to deal with cranky bosses and incompatible office mates? For some reason, call it lack of real world work experience, I thought this situation was reserved for call center workers slaving away for long hours and low wages in India or factory laborers sewing the latest fashion items in Bangladesh.

office1Last year when I stepped into my new office for the first time there were eight desks and although somewhat crowded there was enough room for everyone to feel reasonably comfortable. There was also a promise of partitions so that each of us would have a quieter working space and some privacy. Teachers continued to arrive at the college.  Without partitions the noise level was high, with students coming and going, discussions between colleagues and students, telephones ringing, a printer in constant motion, air conditioners providing a continual humming in the background and random conversations that take place in a variety of languages. It was almost impossible to concentrate and prepare for classes.

Now there are sixteen  cubicles! They are neat and compact – approximately 18 square feet. Just imagine a computer, books, cabinets, files, office supplies, a garbage bin, a chair and me in this little box. Is there any special way to survive life in a cubicle?

The idea of working in close quarters is something that does not appeal to me. I require a quiet environment and a lot of space to be organized, feel relaxed and focus on my daily tasks. Instead, I find myself in a small office with fifteen others squeezed into tiny cubicles.  This has forced me to ponder cubicle etiquette in order to keep the daily office interactions harmonious so that we can all get along and have an amicable co-existence as well as a productive work atmosphere. Thus, after more than a  year of contemplating over an initial list of two dozen triggers that set me silently scowling in my compartment I have narrowed my list down to ten important rules. In the process, I also noticed how many terrible office-habits I possess and that one strategy for coping with life in a cubicle is to adapt my behavior. Now, here is what I have come up with to avoid unsolicited stress in the workplace. cubicle rulesI would like to disclose these ten commandments of cubicle life to my colleagues but fear that my vision of office harmony may not be acceptable or misunderstood by many of the diverse individuals who share my space.

Any ideas or suggestions on how to survive in the modern world of cubicles would be greatly appreciated.

Too hot for a walk

Too hot for walking

Too hot for walking

This morning I slipped out for a short stroll around campus to get away from my cramped cubicle. This was a mistake because within ten minutes of leaving the building I almost collapsed from heat exhaustion. I came back and checked the temperature and realized that it was way too hot to be outside. Thank goodness for air conditioning!

Now, I am trying to cool off and thinking about my new neighbors that I met yesterday when I ventured out for an  evening walk around my neighborhood.

Time to eat

Time to eat

Time to play

Time to play

Time to rest

Time to rest

They are really cute and friendly. I would love to adopt these kittens but I already have two strays at my place. Hopefully, someone else will fall in love with this family and take them home.