Friday, January 17, 2020

Five on Friday: Five Quotes

"A snow day, literally and figuratively, 
falls from the sky,
and seems like a thing of wonder." 
(Susan Orlean)

I woke up Wednesday morning to deep silence. When I looked out the window, all was white. Snow softened the lines of plants, cars, and garden features. It was no surprise to get the message that school was cancelled for the day. 

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful,
for beauty is God's handwriting."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

First on my list of things to do on a snowy day is take a walk. I bundled up and set out for Rithet's Bog. It was a very different place than it had been on Sunday. The waterfowl sheltered in the deeper water of the side ditches. Snow-laden branches reflected mystery in the dark deep pond.

"Instructions for living a life
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it."
(Mary Oliver)

I could see that someone else had walked at least part of the path I was on, but his or her footsteps were mostly covered. No one else was there and the snow was deep enough that it took effort to lift my feet and plant them again. I reveled in the marvelous quiet and the bright softness. 

"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of weather."
(Mark Twain)

Once home again I took a turn around the garden. The Japanese fishing ball looks as though it's wearing a dunce cap. Inside, I made a mug of hot chocolate and walked from window to window, looking at the different views. Then, what to do with the day? Should I indulge myself, or should I mark papers?

Indulgence won out - I read a little, and played with fabric, creating four zipper pouches just for fun. I re-watched an episode of the Crown while I sewed. As the light faded I put away the sewing and went to the kitchen. Earlier in the day I had browned a pot roast and put it into the slow cooker with a bit of red wine. Now I added some chopped mushrooms to the cooker. I cut zucchini, tomatoes, and potatoes to make a vegetable tian that went into the oven. Just before dinner I took the meat from the cooker and let it rest, then poured the mushrooms and liquid into a pot to create a flavourful gravy. It was the perfect day for such a warming dinner. 

"One of the secrets of a happy life
is continuous small treats."
(Iris Murdoch)

The next day school was back in session, although the buses didn't run and numbers were down. It's nearing end of term and assessment is high on the list of things to accomplish. Still, that one day was a gift, an expected treat. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A Week of Winter

"Moss grows where nothing else can grow. It grows on bricks. It grows on tree bark and roofing slate. It grows in the Arctic Circle and in the balmiest tropics; it also grows on the fur of sloths, on the backs of snails, on decaying human bones. It is a resurrection engine. A single clump of moss can lie dormant and dry for forty years at a stretch, and then vault back again into life with a mere soaking of water." Elizabeth Gilbert

Winter has arrived with winds roaring down the straits. Ferry after ferry has been cancelled. The weekend was especially disruptive with passengers stranded on either side. Our Vancouver daughter had four friends stay overnight. I was called in to teach yesterday morning for a colleague who was stranded. 

Tim and I bundled up on Sunday afternoon and went for a walk around the Bog, a depression in the landscape sheltered from the wind by curving hillocks and tall trees. 

The ponds are full now, fed by streams that trickle underground and overground, between houses and under streets, thanks to the abundant recent rains. 

Green-winged Teals and Mallards quack and preen, and swim about in organized confusion. 

Later that night snow began falling, small flakes that felt like pellets that swirled up and around with the wind. Every child went to sleep with hopes of snow covering the ground in the morning. 

Our Mister F awoke early on Monday morning and quickly rushed to play outside in the fresh snow even before it was light saying, "It could be gone by recess time at school." Smart boy! 

Miss S attends another school and she told me that recess and lunch hour were extended so that students could enjoy the snow. Smart teachers! 

Snow is an event here, and there is more to come. I love the bright whiteness and the way it transforms the drab landscape into light and airiness. There is little ambivalence about snow in our city - people either love it or hate it. I'm in the love camp. 

I grew up much further north where winters can be interminable with snow lasting until March or April. That is too much winter for me now. Then I lived very near the equator for many years and winter, or seasons of any kind, were non-existent, and I missed the rhythm of the year. So I'm very happy to be in a place where seasons are mild, but definite. 

After being out in the cold briskness of winter, is there anything better than a cup of hot chocolate or tea by the fire? I think not. Saturday's puttering resulted in a clean and tidy home that makes me smile to look at it. A place for everything and everything in its place. Ahh. 

This morning a few lazy flakes continue to drift through the air. The wind has stopped for a bit and ferry passenger traffic is back to normal. Another system is blowing in and we'll see what that brings. 

Meanwhile, I'm off to school: Spanish, Foods, Spanish, and French are on today's schedule. What's on yours? 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Friday Five: Between the Storms

Yesterday, Thursday, dawned clear and cold, cold being a relative term. There was a little frost. However, the sky was clear and blue, a sight not seen in awhile here. I ventured out to my garden to see what might be happening. 

1. In the midst of repetitive wind and rain cycles, under the dark soil, life is stirring. The first snowdrops are beginning to unfurl their creamy bells. Bluebells and chives poke green shoots upwards. It's all very heartening.

2. Moss thrives. I like moss and don't mind it on rocks, paving stones, and in shady places. My husband dislikes it on the lawn. He applies lime to combat the moss. I transplant bits of it to where I think it would look pretty. Not on the grass, though. Marital harmony is important. 

3. While I love moss, I have a love/hate relationship with succulents. Perhaps I just don't know enough about growing them. Hens and chicks just appeared in my garden and I do like them, but tend to leave them to do their own thing. If I fuss with them, they sulk and look poorly. In the winter, with all the rain, they turn red. I thought they looked very pretty tinged with frost yesterday morning, nestled among the moss. Do you have succulents in your garden? 

4. Oh, little rosebud, I fear for your safety. You looked so lovely in the sunshine, but today wind and rain is lashing furiously. Be brave. There's a change coming from the north. Several days of below freezing temperatures. In typical fashion, newscasters are saying we will experience the coldest weather of the century. That's really not saying much as the century is only 20 years old. Perhaps we will have snow. That I won't mind, but the rosebud might.

5. Storm chips. Have you heard of them? A couple of years ago when we had a snow day off of school, I craved potato chips and took a walk through the snow to get some. Apparently I am not alone. There is a #stormchips hashtag, started in 2014 in eastern Canada. Something about snowstorms causes potato chip yearnings. Who knew? 

This weekend will be fairly slow. I have cupboards I'd like to reorganize and some housework to do. I'll likely bake cookies. There's a stack of books to read. I'll putter. And I'll make sure to stock up for next week's predicted storm - milk, eggs, and storm chips. 

Monday, January 06, 2020

Rainy Day Monday

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful,
for beauty is God's handwriting.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Outside my window this morning the rain drips down. I see delicate translucent beads hanging from each branch of the bare maple tree. The street is shiny wet, with rivulets trickling down along the curbs. I rather dread going out. Inside, my back is to the fire as I type. A large mug of tea is close by.  

I am thinking about walks in the woods and how fresh everything smells, and the quiet sound of slow rain on fallen leaves. 

During the past week I did some major cleanup. We have a storage room over the stairs and it tends to extreme untidiness over time. It looks wonderful now and I discarded all kinds of things - some to the thrift store, many papers to the recycle (I'm getting rid of my teaching materials), and some to the garbage can. We shifted furniture while my dad and son-in-law were here to help and that's required some cleaning out of drawers. My sewing room has also been sorted and organized, although there is one bank of drawers that I still need to get to. It feels great to start the new year with tidiness. 

(For those who will think that I should pass on those teaching resources to others, most of what I have and use is now digitally filed and readily available to my colleagues.) 

We've met some interesting people recently. Our rental suite has been vacant for a couple of months while we've painted and did some minor repairs. It was lovely to have the extra space over Christmas, and we put up an advertisement just before our guests arrived, planning to rent it for January 1. Rental spaces are very hard to find in our town and we had so much interest that we took the ad down after 24 hours. We interviewed 4 possible tenants and it was really hard to choose between them. In the end, we chose a couple who are brand new to Canada. She will be studying at UVic, and he will work. 

Another couple with a small boy also wanted to rent the suite. They are new to Canada, as well, and she will be studying while he works. Seems to be a theme. We had this couple over for dinner last week. I made a Mediterranean Chicken dish that I liked so much I made it again on Saturday night. The recipe is on my other blog and available if you click the link.

Over the weekend our daughter and youngest granddaughter came to stay. Miss Iris is the sweetest baby, and so content. She looks at the world with big serious eyes and has to feel comfortable before engaging in smiles and play. Just before they left yesterday she was sitting in her high chair completely engrossed with a piece of packaging. The sun shone for a brief moment and illuminated her, so I grabbed my camera and took a quick photo. 

As we contemplate another year in a world where much is broken, I leave you with these words from J. R. Tolkien, 

"The world is full of peril and there are many dark places. But still, there is much that is fair and though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater."

Friday, January 03, 2020

First Friday Five 2020

First of all, can I just say how much I love typing or texting 2020? It's snappy and quick and makes me smile almost every time I do it. 

It's almost 8 p.m. and I can hear wind and rain against the house in the dark outside. This afternoon, while driving to the ferry to pick up youngest daughter and youngest granddaughter(!), I heard warnings on the radio about all the ferry cancellations because of wind. There was no sign of the storm when took a couple of photos, but it blew in fairly quickly. Ashley's ferry was on time and I'm glad she and Iris made it. She's here for a friend's baby shower, and I'm so glad to cuddle Iris once again.

I had a few extra moments so I drove down to the water and snapped some photos. The moss is thriving with all the rain we've been having. So green and lush. 

The Christmas decor is put away, but the puzzle is still on the dining room table. Finishing is unlikely, although I'll leave it out for awhile longer. 

We recently installed a new front door. The outdoor lights shine through in an artsy fashion that's kind of fun. The door is white inside and out, and will be painted come spring when the weather dries out and warms up. 

Do you, or have you ever, chosen a focus word for the year? If you have, did you find it meaningful? I'd love to know specifically how. I did chose words several times a few years ago, then left it behind. However, recently, one word keeps coming to mind, with multiple meanings that seem very relevant, so I'm thinking about how to incorporate that focus into something intentional for the year ahead.

If that sounds as wishy-washy to you as it does to me that's because I'm still pondering. 

Iris is tucked away for the night, there's hot peppermint tea to sip, and pools of lamplight making the living room cozy. Although Tim, Ashley, and I are engrossed in various individual pursuits we stop and chat and it's all very convivial. I'm going to post this and devote myself to chatting. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Ending and Beginning

"For last year's words belong to last year's language,
And next year's words await another voice,...
And to make an end is to make a beginning"
T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

The house is quiet and I hear the drumming of rain outside. My mug of tea is almost done. Last night we took down the Christmas tree and other decorations. Some years we wait, but I felt like making a clean start and I have yet to replace the items that normally stand on the mantel and other surfaces. There is beauty in spareness. 

Tim is at work for most of the day. This evening we'll enjoy a quiet dinner together - a seafood dish - and perhaps watch a movie together. Staying up to welcome the New Year might or might not happen. It will come either way. Tomorrow we'll enjoy getting together with our local family for brunch. 

When I was much younger, I calculated the age I would be at the new millennium. It seemed that I would be ancient! Now we're 20 years on and I'm even more ancient! 

In 2020 I hope you laugh until you cry, and that you will be comforted by friends and family when sorrow comes. I hope that you will eat well and move with energy. I hope that you will know how beloved you are and that God our Father longs for you. I hope that you will learn something new, smile often, and read books that take you to amazing places. I hope you see the world with eyes of wonder. 

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 27, 2019

Beautiful Days

The house is quiet just now. My parents left for the ferry this morning after breakfast. Our youngest and her little family are visiting with our eldest across town. Our son is up island with the in-laws. 

There's a jigsaw puzzle not nearly completed on the dining room table. Turkey bones simmer on the stove and the whole house is filled with delicious smells. Tree lights twinkle. Outside, a great swath of dark birds, too far away to identify, wheel and turn against a grey sky. I nibble on a piece of candied orange peel and a few pistachio nuts. 

Tim and I took a long walk late morning, then came home for a bowl of turkey soup. I decided to transfer my photos to my computer and see what I took. 

Above, Auntie Katie holds Iris while the cousins surround her with lots of talking. Iris took it all in stride and responded with smiles and giggles. 

Food is a big part of our Christmas celebration, and there was lots of it. Christmas dessert was inspired by my cousin, who posted a very similar looking plateful a few days before Christmas. Stacks of stars cut from angel food cake sit in a puddle of creme anglaise, with raspberry compote, a cardamom-infused orange slice, and a scoop of whipped cream. It was light and delicious. 

I'm very glad to live in Canada and get Boxing Day as a holiday as well. It carries the festivities onward. I always feel that the entire week between Christmas and New Year's is a time of celebration, of a time when family and friends get together, of cozy evenings of laughter, or quiet pursuits, and plenty of cookies and warming drinks.

Last night we watched Little Women (the Susan Sarandon version) at home here. I cried, as I always do, when Beth dies. Afterwards, Tim made us hot chocolate. 

This morning before my parents left, we took a few photos. There they are with their newest great-granddaughter. Iris is truly the star of the show this year. 

Then I remembered that I wanted a four-generation photo of the women in the family, and although some of us felt a bit scruffy, we took this one. How special it is. 

And here's Grandpa Tim with Iris. She's such a pleasant baby and we're all so happy for her parents (and for ourselves). 

There's more feasting and celebrating to come. I relish it all. The quiet days of January are near, but for now I revel in a full house, and the closeness of family. And I revel in the continuing message of Christmas - God is with us. 

Five on Friday: Five Quotes

"A snow day, literally and figuratively,  falls from the sky, unbidden, and seems like a thing of wonder."  (Susan O...