Monday, January 31, 2011


I started a project last week that has turned into a nightmare. It started many years ago when busylizzy and I inherited a very nice dining room set that had been in her family for many years. It was solid Maple and as such was a very hard wood and has seen little in the way of damage ever the years. Indeed, the only thing wrong with it, is the finish. It has deteriorated over the years and as the clear coat aged, it turned sticky. It is embarrassing when your guests think they are eating at a sticky table that just needs a good wash. But all the washing in the world will not solve this problem.
So, I tried to strip and re-finish last week. I could not find a chemical stripper that would touch it so I resorted to using a heat gun. Normally, the paint or varnish will bubble and wrinkle and scrape right off. This stuff would soften, and then smoke and burn, so I had to press very hard and very carefully to scrape every inch of it off, exerting great pressure and burning my fingers as I had to get very close to the heat source and find the fine line between burning the wood and just softening the finish. I then cleaned and sanded, very thoroughly to remove any contamination. I then applied a penetrating stain to even out the colour and 24 hours later gave it the first coat of polyurethane. I immediately noticed the fish eyes.  

The fish eye effect happens when there is silicone on the surface to be finished and the polyurethane is rejected at that spot and forms a ring around the silicone. But where did the silicone come from. I researched for hours and think I know. It had been probably cleaned many times with a furniture polish or cleaner that left a shine, the shine being a product that contained silicone. As the finish aged and developed tiny pores and lesions, the silicone seeped in and embedded itself in the wood. It needs to be removed with Naptha, or ammonia cleaners, but before the polyurethane goes on. I now have two coats of poly on and this will not go away, but only get more pronounced. The only solution is to totally strip the table again and start anew, this time making sure the silicone is all gone. This is now turning into a monster project whose outcome is in question. What if I clean as per instruction and then find more fish eyes. busylizzy says, "Then just paint it". Unbeknownst to her, the latent silicone will reject primers and paint also. I may be ready to take an axe to this project in a day or two. Literally.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Date Night

I stylized this photo, of a garden wind mill, that I took in Palm Desert.

We awoke Saturday morning to a radio talk show and they were interviewing a speech therapist who had just seen the movie "The King's Speech". She was so full of praise for the accuracy of this true story that we thought we would check out. It is the story of King George VI (Father of present day Queen Elizabeth) who took  the throne of England just prior to WWII. He was a stutterer from childhood and after many futile attempts to find a speech therapist who could help him, he found 'Lionel'. They became friends and the movie climaxes as King George gives his famous speech announcing that Great Britain was at war with Germany, hesitatingly, but nevertheless capturing the hearts of his subjects. Brilliant acting and knowing this is a true story makes for a fascinating movie.
I went to school with a beautiful girl who stuttered so bad she could, for all intents and purposes, not speak at all. But when she sang, it was stunning. The music flowed from her voice and her soul. I do not how historically accurate it is, but King George did not stutter when he sang and when he swore. This makes for some amusing moments in the story, but you may want to plug your
 ears. :)  
Oh, and bring Kleenex.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Winter Doldrums

We do not realize what we have until we are deprived of it for a while. I am talking about our gloomy weather. Are the days really getting longer? Can't really tell with all the heavy overcast. Is there really a sun? Can't tell. Have not seen it but for an hour or two since we returned from sunny southern California. 

I missed 'garbage day' yesterday. The garbage truck comes down our street first thing, around 7 am. I heard it just as the radio alarm went off. By the time I get some pants on and race out to the street, trash cans in hand, it is too late by about 100 feet. The driver is not a compassionate man so he will not let me run to catch up nor will he back up. I know what the problem is. We were on a 'Tuesday garbage day' routine in Palm Desert. It was always on a Tuesday. It did not matter what the holiday was or where it fell on the calendar, it was always on Tuesday. There is a conspiracy here to reduce garbage by confusing the homeowner with a constantly changing garbage day. At least it is working at my house. I am owed a discount for all the times they did not have to pick up my garbage because it was still sitting beside my house. 

I looked in the mirror this morning and noticed my tan is all but gone. I am turning pasty white like everyone else. My new beard stood out so nicely against the golden brown skin, a result of hours of hiking in the desert. Now, white on white is just not doing it for me. I will keep it though. It is like wearing a warm scarf when I step out into the cold, damp, dark, gloomy, depressing, oppressive, winter air. I am in the winter doldrums. Somebody turn on some lights. Please!     

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Flower Taken

It was one week ago yesterday that my friend buried "The most amazing woman."
We knew Vic and Marie very casually for a few years and then in 2006 they invited us to come to Palm Springs with them and spend two weeks in their rented condo. We  must have been a bit of a disappointment for them because I was laid low with recovery from surgery and neither of us are tennis players. Somehow we overcame those obstacles and become very good friends through a lot of sharing and good conversation. You cannot help but get to know someone when you live under the same roof for two weeks. When we got back, we remained friends and got together regularly. One thing that always struck me was the way Vic would say what an amazing woman Marie was. I gradually began to understand why, as did busylizzy who became quite close to Marie. 
At her memorial, some themes were repeated that we already knew. What you saw was what you got with Marie. Marie was 'low maintainance'. Marie's faith was strong and she lived it out. Marie was close to the Lord. 
The day before we left for Palm Desert was the last time I spoke to Marie. She phoned me to tell us to have a good time, and a relaxing time. She was so full of encouragement I could hardly get in the words I wanted to speak to her. I suspected it might be the last time I would speak to her so I thanked her and Vic for helping us discover the Palm Springs area and reminded her of all the good times we had there. I told her what a great encourager she was and how her positive spirit always lifted us up. I told her we would be praying for her. 
A few days before we came home, she passed away from this world into the arms of Jesus, her Saviour. 
Yesterday I spent a few hours with Vic. I had not seen him since the memorial and was expecting to see a shell of a man. But what a difference a strong marriage and a strong faith makes in a man's life. He has plans and dreams and always has been a man of action with more than enough energy. 
What he has left is a very wonderful and supportive family but the memories of his "most amazing woman" will carry him through.    

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sticking My Neck Out

In my dealings with my customers, I have to fight the urge to work on assumptions and I have to constrain myself from calling when they said that they would call. I dislike pushing myself on people so I tend to work with their agendas and time tables. I also dislike unfinished business so you can see how a job that is hanging over my head for that long would disturb me. 
One year ago we had to interrupt a wallpaper installation for a variety of reasons, one of which was my fault. More material had to be ordered, so, the customer said she would call when it had arrived. Having a job on the back burner for one year is highly unusual and it bugged me. But, she said she would call and I took her at her word. Besides, I knew that her powder room was incomplete, she would not hang the paper herself, and it would eventually bother her enough to get me back. It happened yesterday and we finally completed the job and billed her for not only yesterday's work but for the other work we did one year ago. She was very apologetic and I felt a bit bad as I could easily have initiated the completion had I been a bit pushy. But, I was not, and I feel better for it.
I have always found that trusting people results in them trusting me. Trust is not something you can buy or sell, but is earned. This couple has a large and successful home construction business and she assured us that there was more work coming in the near future.    

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cactus 3

I think you get the picture now. There an infinite variety of these thorny plants in the desert. Many time I wanted to reach out and test the texture with my hand and fingers, but, some of these thorns have barbs that will not release from the skin and then begin to fester. So I looked, but did not touch.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cactus 2

I have only encountered cactus in two places in our province but when travelling in the desert, it is everywhere. It takes many forms but all of them are nasty. Whether in the garden, in the wild, or in the parks, these plants are rarely vandalized. The price one pays for messing with one of these is too high. Even the Yucca above, which, I suppose, is not a cactus, has very dangerous spines with sharp edges and points. Cacti make great refuges for all sort of birds and other critters.
If you come from rain forest country, as I do, there is an attractive beauty to these desert plants because they take on so many different shapes, sizes and colours. We have been in this desert in spring and that is when the cacti really shine with their various buds, blossoms, and fruit.

I have some more unique and interesting cacti to show you tomorrow.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Birds of the Desert

Snowbirds are not the only creatures that venture south for the winter. There are numerous species of migratory birds that winter in the desert including Canada Geese. The most prolific birds we saw were the Humming Birds. They were everywhere! Here is a sampling of birds both in and out of captivity. I never left home without my camera.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Last Road Pictures

I always find it interesting the way the topography changes as the miles drift by. Sometimes the changes are gradual and other times they are quite abrupt. With eyes glued to the road in the rain, it is a pleasure when it clears up a bit and you can see beyond the mist thrown up by the truck in front of you.

Close to Weed, California, (what does it say when they name a town after a noxious plant) the snow was quite evident and we even saw small patches of it in the ditches. We passed numerous warning signs such as this one, as well as large overhead read-a-boards but they all remained unlit and that was fine with us.  

We stopped at most Rest Stops and took a quick stroll before getting back in the car for more driving. We find this helpful to reduce fatigue in the body as well as in the mind. The USA has a good network of these stops and they are a vital safety feature. We noticed that a few of them were closed, blocked off. We made some inquiries and found that it was due to state funding cuts. California is on the verge of bankruptcy and they cut back where they can. The new governor, Jerry Brown, is tackling the deficit by taking the bus to his new offices. That should work.
In a few years, the pot holes in the freeway, which were just starting in many places, will be hazards. Many places where we stopped had very much evidence of hard times. There were even people begging at some of these rest stops, something we had never encountered before.

Lake Shasta, always a jewel. We have seen the water level much lower than this, so we can see why the rain was welcome here. There was a very large construction project on the highway here, building a bridge over an arm of the lake. It was one of the few new projects we saw anywhere.