Sunday, January 17, 2021

A Bit of Spontaneity Does the Soul Good


Late Sunday morning the sunshine streamed into the house, warming the living room, casting sharp shadows. It was just too beautiful to stay indoors. We packed up a quick lunch - crackers, cheese, pickles, cucumbers and red pepper strips, plus sliced apples and chocolate. We made a thermos of hot tea and off we went to French Beach, along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 

The sunshine was mostly obscured by light fog and the wind off the water made us very glad for scarves and jackets and gloves. 

Our thermos of tea was most welcome, too. The thermos is old - Tim bought it in high school, but it's sturdy and works well, and accompanies us on most outings.

Along with a first aid kit, two small rectangles cut from an old blue camping sleeping mat are permanent residents in Tim's backpack. We placed them on one of the many driftwood logs tossed up onto the shore and sat ourselves down, protected from the damp cold. Comfort!
Our lunchtime entertainment was the spectacle of two gulls perched on a log in the heaving water. I almost got seasick watching them. Up and down they went. Sometimes the log disappeared entirely and sometimes the birds themselves were hidden by waves. Up and down, up and down. They drifted closer and closer to shore and finally alighted from the log just before it came ashore onto the rocky beach. 

The woods are wet after all the rain we've had, with many muddy sections on the trail. My eye was caught by the tiny crystal beads clinging to the delicate ferns. 

The beach was strewn with logs of all sizes, tangles of kelp and seaweed. This clutch of small rocks nestled in a driftwood log was placed there by the waves, perhaps for safekeeping.

On our way home we stopped at a place new to us - Sheringham Point Lighthouse. It's been deemed surplus by the government and was destined for demolition until a group of concerned citizens took it on as a preservation project. There is a small park and a short looping trail, as well as a trail down to the lighthouse. A wild and beautiful spot. The lighthouse keeper's house was demolished, but a volunteer told us that they have the original plans and hope to rebuild a replica one day. 

We arrived home not too long before dark, tired and oh, so happy for our hours in the outdoors. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Suspended in mid-January


We're halfway through January. How has it been for you? I feel like I'm in a waiting room, but I don't know exactly what I'm waiting for. Or perhaps I'm waiting for a number of things - the end of the pandemic, retirement (2.5 weeks away), sunshine - things that I can do nothing to hurry along. At the same time, I'm content and go through my days with a smile on my face. I'm just drifting along, suspended on the current of time.

We've been walking most nights. We eat dinner, clean up, and Tim does email for an hour or two, then he gets up, opens the front door to check the weather, and suggests a walk. We've walked in some steady rain this week, squelching on muddy trails that are hard to see in the dark. A few times we've seen glittering stars shining through the trees. I sometimes dislike the idea of putting on raincoat, boots, and hat, but once I'm outside, it feels good to move and I return home feeling quite virtuous! 

Soft fairy lights still glow in the evenings here, creating comfort and coziness. I've finished three books this year so far, and began the fourth last night. The book most recently finished is "A Fifty-Year Silence" by Miranda Richmond Mouillot - "Love, war and a ruined house in France," in which she tells the true story of her grandparents, Jewish refugees from France. The story is like a puzzle that Miranda puts together, trying various pieces to see if they fit, without having a picture to go by. Fascinating.

Storm after storm has blown in across the Pacific bringing lots and lots of rain. On Tuesday night wind arrived, too, battering the house with loud gusts that woke us from a sound sleep. We did not lose power as our lines are underground, but others did. Because the ground is so saturated just now, many trees fell and damaged cars and houses. Today, all is calm and there are a few patches of blue sky that we must enjoy before the next storm arrives.

Tea-drinking, reading, stitching, and walking are about the extent of my activities beyond the daily routines of teaching and home-keeping. I'm thankful for technology so I can stay in contact with family. Tell me, how are you putting in these mid-January days? 

Friday, January 08, 2021

Five on Friday


Isn't this a striking male House Finch? We are seeing a good variety of birds around our feeder these days. They flutter in one at a time and then a colourful charm of finches perch on railings and rosebushes, awaiting their turn at the feeder. 

This is the first year Pine Siskins have visited the feeder. They are such scrappy things, beating their wings furiously when another bird gets too close, not wanting to share. On a recent cold morning, this particular Pine Siskin sat on the railing with his feathers fluffed while he waited. 

Our breakfast table looks out to where the feeders are. We have a ringside seat to bird antics. The table is an old one that belonged to Tim's mother, and to another family connection before that. 

Tim brought the two chairs home from the office many years ago and our youngest used them in her home. She painted them black and upholstered them in a beautiful rich gold and black pattern. She no longer needs them, so we took them. Over the Christmas break, Tim stripped, sanded, primed and painted them. I chose the colour and bought the upholstery fabric. He did the work. I'm so pleased with the way they turned out. They are very comfortable, too. 

"Food is for eating, and good food is to be enjoyed...
I think food is, actually, very beautiful in itself." Delia Smith

Salads are good any time of year and we eat a lot of them. With the sky-rocketing price of lettuce, I'm looking for alternatives for winter salads. Last night we enjoyed this one: English cucumber, quick pickled red onion, a jalapeno pepper (finely minced), a handful of roasted salted peanuts, and some parsley. Tossed with a little soy sauce and sesame oil, it made a delicious dish and I'm looking forward to finishing it for lunch. 

"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough
to suit me." C. S. Lewis

January is Hot Tea Month (I don't know who decides these things...). Hot tea is served year round here, but it is especially enjoyable with my back to the fire on a rainy day. My eldest daughter gave me the mug for Christmas - isn't it pretty? It's a good size, too, and perfect for the first cup of the morning!

And so ends the first week of January. My, it's been eventful, hasn't it? Our restrictions have been extended for another month, which makes us all very sad, but we will hang in there.  School is still in session, so I'm not feeling too restricted, other than not being able to see my family. I'm so glad for technology that allows us to connect with our loved ones.

I'm sending wishes for a good weekend ahead to all of you. Treat yourself well. Be kind to others. 

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Quiet Beginnings


A bouquet of pale pink roses for you on a grey morning. I brought these roses home from the grocery store a couple of days ago. After Christmas decor is put away I always feel like the house needs something fresh and pretty. We left up the mini lights on the mantel, and the paper star garland across the mirror. On January's dark nights it's lovely to sit in the glow of soft light. 

I like to do puzzles and this one was a pleasure from start to finish. Although 1000 pieces, it took us just 3 days to complete. I just loved the colours and all those needlecraft items. 

In the kitchen/breakfast room mini lights still shine each night. 

I normally enjoy the quiet and slower pace of January after the festivities of December, but this year, sigh, it just all seems to be more of the same. Dark nights, grey days, lots of rain, and nowhere to go. 

Each year around November I wish I had a Christmas quilt. By then, however, I'm busy with sewing pajamas or other gifts and there's no time for quilts. Because of the quiet break this year, I decided it was time to make a red and white quilt. I pulled all the scraps of Christmas fabrics and started cutting, then stitching. I made a lot of progress last week and am pleased with the way it's turning out. 

School began again this week and time at the sewing machine has been severely curtailed, although I make time for a little bit of stitching. 

Outside my window it's quiet and still just now, but there is a wild storm blowing in from the Pacific later this morning. Ferries have been preemptively cancelled after the 9 am sailing. 

How is your year beginning? Have you begun any new projects? 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Turning of the Year


The turning of the year invites both looking back and looking ahead. The first is rooted in memory; the second in hope and intention. I have never indulged in much formal retrospection. I've never done a post highlighting the 10 most-read blog entries, nor do I find them interesting to read on others' blogs. Of course, I love memories, but that's different.

However, this year, more than most, seems to invite a little reflection. My, what a year it's been. None of us imagined the upheaval and turmoil of 2020. All years are uncertain, for we never really know what lies ahead. We make plans and most times, they come to fruition, or we change them. We live life with an illusion of control. Perhaps 2020 taught us that life is fragile and plans should be held lightly. We have seen incredible goodness and kindness in people, and conversely, incredible selfishness. The convulsions of this year brought home the importance of resilience, and of the need to be strong spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. It's been tough. We've wept. We've been anxious. We've ached with longing to hug our loved ones. We've faltered. 

Next year, 2021, will begin with the very same problems and turmoil as 2020 ended with: inequality, racism, selfishness, and the big one, Covid19. There is hope that the vaccine will help with the latter. But even those results will not be apparent for several months, at the earliest. 

So what do I hope for as we step into 2021? 

I hope that you will see the world with eyes of wonder and awe, and that you will find solace in knowing the promise of Christmas, Emmanuel - God with us, through the days and moments of 2021. I hope that you will soon be able to gather with those you love, that you will hug and kiss with joy and abandon, and laughter will echo from the walls of your home. I hope that you will create community and a sense of welcome as you walk about the world. I hope that you read books that make you cry and laugh and ponder life. Move more. Be well. Love with abandon. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Between the Years


Outside my window all is grey and dull. A few chickadees flit about. Inside, I have a cup of tea (English Breakfast) to hand, and the tree lights twinkle. It's very quiet. 

I took few photos this Christmas, but wanted to document a few aspects of the quieter, different celebration. Our dessert on Christmas Eve is often a Buche de Noel - a chocolate version. This year I tried a white one, with vanilla cake, a thin layer of lemon curd and then tart raspberry filling all rolled up and covered with a white chocolate mousse. Candied orange slices and pomegranate arils added a festive touch. It was delicious, not-too-sweet, and refreshing.  

I confess that my bravery and determination to celebrate well with just the two of us failed me on Christmas morning after we had opened our lovely gifts. The hours ahead seemed dreadfully empty. So we went on a long walk - several hours in the fresh air, including a stop by our son's house for a short sidewalk visit. That cheered me up and by the time we returned home we were very hungry! The table for two is a good sum up of this Christmas. 

On Boxing Day we had a number of video calls with family and friends. Here is our family photo for the year. Such dearly loved faces. 

We're all agreed that we can meet for walks outside one family at a time. On Sunday I walked alongside Witty's Lagoon with our eldest daughter and her family. It was another grey day, with a teensy bit of drizzle. 

Tim was planning to join us, however, work interfered. I wish these Covid naysayers and rule-breakers knew of the efforts health care workers (including administrators and managers) put in to ensure the system works well under the weight of this virus. Of his 10 days of scheduled vacation, only two were free of conference calls, emails, and texts. 

On a dull day the forest is somber and dark, but everywhere is the sound of water. Sometimes it trickles in hidden rivulets, then it rushes over rocks and along the shore it laps quietly against the sand. 

Here we are on the cusp of another year. 

cusp: the dividing line between two very different things

During these in between days life is slow. We ate Christmas Day leftovers for a few meals and yesterday I made lasagna for the two of us with a shredded cabbage, carrot, and beet slaw, and some pan-roasted broccoli. Hearty and simple and very satisfying. 

Today I'm tidying a little, and I've sorted some fabrics for a red and white Christmas quilt. Every year, round about December, I wish I had a Christmas quilt, but it's too late by then. So I've decided that will be a project for now. 

Wishing you all quiet days of joy and love. How do you spend these days between the years?

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Two More Sleeps


For a child, the few days before Christmas are fraught with excitement and anticipation. My brother and sister and I counted down the "sleeps" until the big day, and my own children did the same. As an adult, I count down via my list. Is everything done that needs doing? Now, just two sleeps before Christmas, everything is well in hand. 

The cookies are baked and plates of them delivered to driveways across town, with short, chilly visits at a good distance. Gifts are wrapped and delivered. Since we can't be together for Christmas this year, my daughter-in-law had the great idea that we could all exchange a food item that is "Christmassy." Hot crab dip, a savoury cheesecake, gluhwein and cardamom buns - doesn't it all sound delicious? For my part, I made Tim's mother's fruit salad, some chex mix, candied pecans, and plates of cookies. A mother can do a bit more, can't she?

Since it's just the two of us, we won't be using the dining room table for our meals, but sit by the window at our breakfast table. We'll watch the birds eating at the same time. I bought a piece of fabric and hemmed it to make a new tablecloth to gussy things up a little. 

The linen napkins are ironed smooth, softly folded, and stacked ready for use. As I ironed this little pile, I reflected on years when the pile was much higher. It will be again, God willing. 

A pearl bead garland encircles the dining room light fixture and from a certain angle, frames the wooden nativity set. On Christmas Eve we'll watch our church service on line. These past few days the sweet old Christmas carols have rung throughout the house as I cooked and wrapped. 

Tomorrow I'll do a quick tidy up of the house, and finish a few things in the kitchen, including a Buche de Noel. I normally make a chocolate one, but this year I'm doing one with vanilla cake, lemon curd and raspberries. Plus lots of whipped cream. 

On Christmas Day we will open stockings, then have breakfast and read the Nativity story from Luke, and open other gifts. Perhaps a long walk will follow, then dinner à deux, perhaps a movie and reading. There will be texts and phone calls and a lovely sense of contentment and joy. Different, but still celebratory. 

I wish all of my readers a wonderful celebration of Christ's birth and much joy. Merry Christmas!

A Bit of Spontaneity Does the Soul Good

  Late Sunday morning the sunshine streamed into the house, warming the living room, casting sharp shadows. It was just too beautiful to sta...