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TAD (1):

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.



Chair kit laid out

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 grow.

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.

Chair under construction

Meher (1):

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.

Monarch larvae on butterfly weed

TAD (2):

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.


Living room, January 2020

Meher (2):

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 milestone.

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 cleaning.

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 anecdote “My 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!