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I see it’s been nearly a year since I posted anything here. I’ve missed writing about cottage life, and a variety of other topics which interest me. I always hoped to get back to it. Writing used to be fun; then it wasn’t, so much. Perhaps it can be again?

I’ve taken a year off of work, for a variety of personal reasons. It has allowed me to take better care of myself, which is wonderful. I’ve been eating better, and exercising more, reading a lot, travelling a bit, walking my dog, hanging out at the cottage, teaching myself to play the ukulele (yes, really) and just generally enjoying each day. But always, always, I have intended to start writing again. I just haven’t been able to make a start. So here is a start.

So, whats new at Keats View Cottage? In a material vein, the bed is new; the barbecue is new; these fishing float lights on the mantle are new: I really like these!

image

More importantly, I have a new pleasure in spending time on the Sunshine Coast. Instead of squeezing in a weekend here and there, I have been spending a week at a time at the cottage. This has allowed me to do the usual home projects and gardening but also to spend long hours walking the beach, sipping coffee on the porch, getting to know people in the community better and considering what I want for the future. This gift I have given myself is, truthfully, the best gift ever.

My work involves a lot of writing, and over time, it seems the writing I was obliged to do drained most, if not all, of the pleasure from the act of writing. I’d like to get this back, if I can.

But I don’t want to look too far down the road, or raise my expectations too much. Reactivating this blog is a good starting point, because it’s true purpose was always to keep a record of the years as they whizzed by. While the cottage was a convenient focal point, what is most interesting when I look back is to see what we were doing at any given time, and what activities and ideas interested the Cottager and me (and the Urchins, of course.)

So now I have lost a whole year of recording those things, and although quite a bit of it hasn’t been “the best of times”, I’m still sorry not to have that record. And I feel motivated to write here, if nowhere else, once again. For those fifty or so folks who have continued to follow my blog throughout this long silence, your interest is appreciated. Thanks for hanging in there. More soon, I hope.

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A while back a couple of Anglophile friends and I hatched a plan – over several bottles of wine – to spend a weekend at the cottage watching Downton Abbey and cooking and eating classic English dishes.

We met on the ferry last Thursday evening and by 8 we were all settled in to watch the first few episodes.

Gillian is the cook – and the only true Brit amongst us – and therefore was the majordomo of the weekend. Connie and I were there to assist, support – o yes, and eat!

Next day we started the morning off with Bacon Sarnies (breakfast sandwiches made with thick cut English bacon.)  Then we headed into town for supplies – fabrics for Gillian, a fragrant daphne and bird suet for me and food, wine and beer for all.

Lunch was watercress soup, scotch eggs from the British butcher, and freshly dressed greens.

Freshly made watercress soup - the first I ever tried.

Scotch egg and greens

For dinner there was English Bangers and Mash with onion gravy.

Bangers and mash with onion gravy

And in between, if you can believe it, we had a Devonshire Cream tea, complete with strawberry scones, home made black-berry jam and strong Yorkshire tea.

Scones with blackberry jam and Devonshire cream

Your math is not off. We were compelled to eat four meals in one day in order to sample just a few of the things on our list. The Welsh rarebit, Victoria sponge and beef and potato pie never even made it out of the gate.  Thank God there is a second season of Downton Abbey!

We also managed to squeeze in a walk on the beach, craft up some lovely wind chimes using old teapots and plated cutlery, play some card games and drink an impressive amount of wine.

Gillian will be posting her recipes for bangers and mash and watercress soup on her blog “What’s for Dinner” over the next few days. It is a great resource for quick and delicious dinner ideas. I made her foccacia just last night and loved it.

Nice windchimes Crumpets! Thanks for a great weekend.

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Hi There!  Happy New Year!

This month marks the 4th Anniversary of my first post. A good time to rethink or retool.

It’s been a terrific four years of making improvements at Keats View Cottage, and along the way we’ve made good friends and great memories.  We’ve even started to make a bit of money through summer rentals, which is icing on the cake.  That damn quilt, by the way, still isn’t done.

We’ve answered some important questions: Is the Gibsons area where we’d like to spend at least part of our retirement years?  Yes, and I think we will start to shift operations over that way within the next five years or so.  

Do we need a bigger/grander place?  No, simple really is better — though the lightly insulated walls and single pane windows of the cottage may be a little too spartan for a place where we hope to live at least 50% per cent of the time, year round. 

We sometimes take a long walk around nearby Hopkins Landing, wondering if a future home isn’t waiting quietly for us in that neighbourhood. We also sometimes talk of rebuilding on the Keats View property, but I feel overwhelmed when I try to think of what would be involved:  Instant decision fatigue.   

And then there is this blog.  160 plus posts and just shy of 50,000 visits over these four years. It remains a treasured record of our efforts and achievements, and a repository of photos, recipes and ideas, both good and questionable.  

But now that most of what we planned to do is done, it is increasingly rare that something blog-worthy comes along. I don’t think anyone really cares to know that I am busy cutting back the bamboo again . . . and, like every year, contemplating bambooicide.  Having done our best to acentuate the place’s natural charms and make it comfortable, we reach a place of diminishing returns for big, interesting projects.

The urchins are near grown now and they talk of coming to the cottage more than they actually do, as their school work, social lives and hobbies  increasing engage them.  So we are in a transitional time. We can’t drag them along, and we can’t really leave them for more than an occasional night, so our cottage time is somewhat limited at the moment. When we do get there, we try to do less, enjoy more. 

If everything goes to plan – and it may very well not – I will spend the month of June at Keats View, on a self-funded sabbatical to work on a personal project.  It is a very happy thought. I love the long days of June, and would be very happy to spend an hour or two a day working in the garden, instead of 10 hours over one weekend.  

Meanwhile, I plan to reduce my blog posts to about one per month.  Rather than scratching my head to come up with some fresh content or feeling guilty about great gaps between posts, I’m making it official.  When there is something worth writing about, I’ll write.  Check back in early February for my annual special Valentines Day recipe  – The Food of Love – It is a recipe worth having, I assure you. 

I encourage you to click the “follow” button.  That way, you will be alerted when I do post, and won’t have to waste time checking back. Since my posts will be so infrequent, you need not fear being inundated with alerts!  

Thanks for sharing our adventure.  And please stop by again.

Looking forward to spring at the cottage

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We were out for dinner at our friends’ Gillian and Dave’s place recently. Gillian loves to cook and she is really good at it. Makes it look effortless, in fact. 

She was professionally trained, many years ago, and delights in hosting dinner parties where she brings together family and friends in interesting combinations for truly memorable meals.  Then she posts her recipes, along with mouth-watering photos on her blog What’s For Dinner.  

Join Gillian in her kitchen and be inspired.

When Gillian isn’t in her kitchen being inventive, she is often travelling in interesting places, sampling the food there and posting photos and reviews. Back at home, she reproduces the best of the meals she experienced while abroad. The result is a really entertaining and useful resource for anyone who likes to cook – or has to do it regardless. 

On this particular evening, Gillian was preparing a New Orleans-style meal in response to a Daring Cooks Challenge from another food blogger: Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, black-eyed peas, rice and a lovely salad. It all came together beautifully, as usual, and the conversation around the table was lively and fun.

Dessert was beignets – a New Orleans style doughnut. I snuck into the kitchen to watch the squares of yeast dough puff up and turn brown in the oil, and was enlisted as the the official powdered sugar roller. 

They were so good!  You know when you read a Peter Mayle novel and he describes a meal bite by bite and dish by dish and each one is better than the last and the description is so detailed that your mouth waters and you wonder if food has ever tasted as good to you as it does to Peter Mayle?  Thanks to these beignets, I know that the answer is yes!

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This story is a tribute – of the half-assed emulation variety – to my favourite humour blog, Hyperbole and a Half. If you haven’t checked it out, you really should. Seriously.  I cry.

My story begins with my decision to finally abandon my Modern Amish life-style. I simply couldn’t juggle my work schedule, the organization of two homes, my growing vacation rental business, French lessons, family and social obligations and keep track of where my shift-working husband and busy teenagers were. Not without some help. I was fraught. 

I was fraught!

So fraught, that I felt as though I was covered in a million little sticky notes. 

I felt exactly like this.

So, I swallowed my pride, and went to the Telus store at the mall to get a new whiz-bang phone. And there a fellow named Rory – and yes, that is his real name because he needs to know – struggled to find the patience deep inside himself to deal with the Luddite sent to test him on that particular morning. I only understood about a quarter of what he said.

A few days later I went to CAYA (or Come As You Are) – the LGBT- friendly Telus store near my office in downtown Vancouver. Luckily, I didn’t have to give a secret handshake or anything. I really could come as I was. Sarah was super patient with me.

The hiccup was that my Littlest Urchin (Lu) also needed a phone, and I thought our best deal would be made if I dragged him into a wealth-sucking three-year plan at the same time that I super-sized my own financial obligation.

So, after using the CAYA folk shamelessly to educate myself on my options, I went back to the mall in the ‘burbs with Lu to make our deal.  And that’s when it happened.  While I was going over the details one last time, Rory pulled out his own phone.

Rory pulls it out

So how’d I do, Hyperbole and a Half?  Did I accurately depict the amazument I felt when Rory the client service representative turned away from me – the client – and gave the gift of his attention to his phone?  Was it an urgent text regarding a catastrophic event or was he . . . he was…. it appeared he was checking Facebook!  He was appsturbating right in front of me!

 What I wanted to say – only I was too gobsmacked – was

“Are you fricking kidding me, Rory?”

Eventually, Rory noticed that I had fallen silent, and he put his phone away. Lu and I left. I went back to the CAYA store where Sarah set me up with an iphone, a Blackberry for Lu, and an Android for the Cottager – Take That Rory!

At CAYA they didn’t know anything about the 79$ mandatory Apple Care plan that was ‘packaged up’ with the ‘free’ iphone Rory was going to sell me, so unfortunately, I had to keep that money. They insisted I accept a free charge mat and a photo finishing bonus of one thousand prints a year for the three years of my contract, too.

 And a final bonus is that a new word is born. I predict this word will be my 15 minutes of fame. My last great word – ‘KLIG’ for Kind of Laughing I Guess – was meant to rout the overstated and sadly overused LOL, but for reasons I will never understand, it did not catch on.

But Appsturbate… now there is a word. I’ve launched it when phones came out at the table during dinner parties on two successive weekends.  It’s effect was immediate. Revolutionary. Time will tell if I become a dinner guest much admired for my wit, or a social outcast known for my inappropriate social behaviour.  

And while I wait to find out, I embark upon a new struggle between my fundamental belief in the basic goodness of old fashioned human interaction and my glee in discovering little gadgets that enable me to indulge my compulsive urge to list things, track what I’ve eaten, and launch sheep.  After all, appsturbation is a perfectly natural thing.

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That would be the blog – not me, the wife.

Last week marked the three year anniversary of my inaugural post.  Recent events caused me to take a pause in my on-line activities, as well as to evaluate whether I wanted to continue on with my blog in 2011. 

I started writing it as a quite natural continuation of a decades-long journaling habit. The opportunity to post photos to accompany my musings sealed the deal. Acquiring recreational property provided a (somewhat) unifying theme for tracking our shared home improvement jones, occasional craft projects, favourite recipes and family escapades. 

The difficulty is that Cottager’s Wife reflects some of my interests, but by no means all. If I were to continue, I might need to stray, a little, into travel, cycling, sailing, writing, book and consumer reviews and more. The cottage, the garden and that (still) unfinished quilt just don’t offer enough scope, three years on.  

 I recently got a year-end summary from Wordpress advising that Cottager’s Wife was viewed approximately 11,000 times in 2010. Total views over three years total nearly 37,000. While daily views have fallen off rather dramatically since I stopped posting back in October, there are still a couple dozen views each day. In the blogging world, those aren’t particular impressive numbers, but I still find it pretty cool. 

Here are a few of the considerations motivating me to give it at least one more year: The blog is a great record of some happy family moments.  It also allows us to see how far we’ve come with our projects.  It probably provides some reassurance to prospective vacation guests that our rental accomodation is legitimate, and that we strive to maintain and improve it for their benefit and our own. Finally, it allows me to promote, in a small way, Gibsons and the Sunshine Coast, for which I have developed a deep appreciation over these past three years. 

So on we go.  My commitment is to try to write a post a week. I’ll finish that countdown of the best things in Gibsons, and provide details of recent cottage projects including a ‘phantom’ screen door that Cottager just installed at great savings, a frugal gas barbecue rebuild and more. Plus more recipes, more garden exploits and some new stuff too, involving travel and adventure.  And all while enjoying occasional frosty beverages out-of-doors on sunny days and rocking an unfashionable hair scrunchy. 

Looking forward to a great year . . .

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I know, I know. It’s not very becoming. But I just have to show you my before and after photos.  We’ve been away for a while (more about that later), and I’ve likely tested the interest of any regular readers with my unapologetic silence – so who is there to offend, really? 

Patience and hard work paid off here. Also, the assistance of followers of this blog and GardenWeb folk  – who continue to make great suggestions to this day. Oh . . . and really good weather may have had a hand. Also, the neighbour who watered while we were away.

So really, it was a group effort. Regardless, it is very gratifying to see what can be achieved in the span of six months.  It is especially appreciated this summer when a successful rental season at Keats View has kept us away from the cottage for six weeks and counting: Having a little bit of dirt to mess around in just steps from my kitchen has prevented me from feeling too unhappy about my exile from the cottage garden.  

Without further ado, here is my backyard in March of 2010:

Just getting started in the backyard: March 2010

And here is how it looks today, as I sit typing out a blog post and sipping a blender drink:

My new happy place: August 2010

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