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The New Year 2019 didn’t really get celebrated
last year until Epiphany, when JS revealed
himself, that is, when he got time off from work and
visited from Vancouver. It was a snowy winter and Meher
got herself new, bright red snow boots that she wouldn’t
even take off when she was indoors.
Everybody was working at something or other.
Meher’s nephew Nihal got his job in Collingwood, and Adam
and I helped him move his stuff up there. JS went back to
his job in Vancouver, only to fly back again at the
beginning of March for Lenore’s 100th birthday party.
Starting in the fall of 2018 I built some
planters for Meher and in April; I finished them and put
them in place next to the garage. I also had to re-do the
raised beds that JS originally built for me out of 2 x 8
lumber. They had rotted, so I bought boards and corner
posts made from recycled materials. We use up all of our
accumulated extra dirt and compost and still the new
planters weren’t full. We bought sacks and sacks of
various potting mixes and top soil at the garden center
and then finally we were bailed out by the city when our
councilor arranged for a truckload of city compost to
dumped in a nearby park.
In June drumsticks (the fruits of Moringa oleifera)
appeared in the Indian grocery stores on Gerrard Street
East, so we decided to make drumstick sambar again.
This requires an extract made from the pulp of tamarind
pods, but unfortunately Meher has yet to describe that
process (or making sambar) on her recipes sites. Soon
come! Anyway, we also bought little tomato plants,
and put them in one of the planters, along with marigolds
to keep away the bad insects. But where to sit and enjoy
the garden? I found there are kits for making what they
call a Muskoka chair, named after the district
north-northeast of Toronto also known as “cottage
country”. They are very comfortable.
And around this time in
mid-June, Nihal had his graduation from
Conestoga College so we went to see him graduate and
took him out for supper afterward. Around this time, too,
the Norway maples are in fruit, so you have to split the
“keys” (fruit halves) and wear them. By this time the
sunflowers in front of the house had only just begun to
By July those little tomato plants were hulking
green monsters that had crowded out some
lettuce plants and were muscling in on the marigolds’
territory. Those wee yellow dots are the flowers that by
August were churning out so many cherry tomatoes that
salads didn’t use them up fast enough and I was putting
them into our baked red macaroni and cheese as the “red”
component. In July as well the wildlife was in action too.
I found two picture-wing flies (Tephritidae) mating on a
sunflower leaf. A week later we spotted a young
red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) who had
caught a rat!
On my birthday in mid-July Meher and I,
and Adam and Steph, went to the Toronto Islands for a
picnic. By then the red currants in the garden were ripe
in abundance, and within a couple of weeks we had
accumulated enough to make jelly. Later that month I
visited Lenore in Cambridge, and one of the excursions we
made was to Hyde Park, a suburb in the southwestern part
of Boston. In the early 1950s John and Lenore and I shared
this house with another family, and with an assortment of
young men who lived in the upstairs of an addition on the
left that no longer seems to be there.
The garden was about the same in
2019 as in 2018. My sunflowers (Helianthus
sp.) grew taller than our house, and the Mexican
sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia) attracted
monarch butterflies. In the summer, I found two voracious
monarch caterpillars on my butterfly weed, Asclepias
tuberosa, but wasn’t able to locate their pupae
later on. They simply chewed off most of the leaves of
this milkweed and disappeared.
This year we’ve spent time doing
stuff around the house, cleaning places that
needed it, like the garage or the basement, as Meher
describes below. Some things come to light, having been
safely tucked away, like Lenore’s mother’s treadle sewing
machine that JS has spoken up for. We had to replace our
tankless water heater, and got a bigger and better one.
We’ve also worked on recipes, revising some of them, and
adapting others like the one Meher devised for shrimp
curry. Meher taught it to me, and I’ve made it enough
times that I decided to try adapting it for making oxtail
curry. Now we have three oxtail dishes: stew, Jamaican
style, with potatoes, yam, and dumplings; spaghetti sauce,
and now curried. Speaking of spaghetti sauce, a friend
told us about making vegetable spaghetti as a way of
cutting down on starches. Then there is my old standby,
apple pie. I want to get a proper board big enough for
rolling out the crust instead of using store-boughten pie
shells. We had to throw out the one I was using because,
being particle board covered on one side with Formica, it
began to grow mold along the edges.
And then there were holidays, observed
somewhat haphazardly. Halloween, of course, has to be
observed on October 31st, and we do, making a jack
o’lantern earlier in the day. This year was a real holiday
for us, observed about halfway between the Canadian and
American dates, when JS came home on a visit shortly after
having gotten hurt at work. Not seriously, thankfully. It
was a special occasion also because our friends Len and
Orna and one of their daughters, Mika, joined us. When
Adam and Mika were babies Orna and Meher exchanged
babysitting so that each week for a year each one of them
got two whole days off from their little one.
Later on, we shared a litter of feral kittens from our
backyard with them. Finally, just before Christmas,
Nihal told us about a demonstration against the BJP’s
Citizenship Amendment Act outside the Indian Consulate
downtown on Bloor Street so we joined him there.
I finally did it! I
retired from my online job at the end of November, 2019.
The retirement had been in the cards for at least a year,
but I was able to pull it off, having given my employers
ample notice, and prepared myself mentally for this
Retirement, unfortunately, has not meant
having lots of time on hands so far because I started
doing things I had put off and put off for years. Cleaning
out the stuff I no longer need was my first priority, but
I also got Tim involved in cleaning at least some of his
things. This combined effort was quite productive, and Tim
did his share of getting rid of humongous amounts of
paper. I also convinced him to undo three tables he uses
in his work area, which led to an amazing amount of
Another thing I have been doing is sewing.
Clothes to repair and other sewing jobs had accumulated
for years, so I have been sewing when not cleaning. I am
quite happy with the results because sewing done two years
ago, on one of my days off, had been fraught with
problems. I wrote about one sewing project gone awry in an
Middle Class Dream.” Post-retirement projects, so
far, have been quite good and satisfying. In fact, our odd
pieces of furniture, which I wrote about in My Middle
Class Dream seemed to be fitting quite well with a few new
items and a couple of things I sewed.
The living room has a brand new bench on
which is a fabric that I bought from India several years
ago. I reinforced the fabric with sturdy khadi (unbleached
cotton) at the back and it fits like a dream on the bench.
We use the bench, without the cover, for sitting, but
sometimes we use it as a table to serve appetizers. With
the cover on, it fits perfectly in our small living room.
I also made curtains for the living room that did not go
wrong as in the story My Middle Class Dream. Here are some
pictures. Of course, the odd assemblage of furniture is
very much there, but with the central table and the
curtains, the living room looks very good.
One of the things I would love to do is
to go to India with Tim for a longer period of time, say a
year or two. This is something I had wanted to do when we
were younger, but we were not able to. Well, we are now
free, and I am wondering if we can do it.
Have a great 2020, everyone!