Wednesday, March 31, 2010


The sun is shining gloriously after a cold, wet week. Venturing out into our new yard with my camera, I set out to see what I could find. Lots of treasures awaited me. My younger daughter told me that she had placed my Japanese fishing ball somewhere in the garden for me to find. Here it is, nestled among the green, looking quite at home.

Daffodils nod their heads in the front yard. No tulips, though - the deer love them and we have plenty of deer here. I came home from shopping on Monday to discover two of them lunching in the front yard.

This clematis has wound its way to the rooftops - it has to be cut way back according to the house maintenance man, aka husband. And hidden behind all that growth is a lovely stone water fall feature with a small pond at the bottom. It's going to be fun fixing that up.

A lovely pair of stone birds - herons, cranes? nestle under a tree. I'm looking forward to featuring them in some small garden vignette.

And indoors, cinnamon bun dough is rising in the breadmaker and brownie bites, rich and chocolatey, but not too big, are cooling on the countertop. The recipe can be found here on my recipe blog.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Settling In

Friday was move-in day, and the process continued throughout the weekend. Our children all came up to help out. We couldn't have accomplished what we did without them. By Friday night the living room was set up and turned out to be a great place to crash when exhaustion took over. On Saturday afternoon while I snoozed on the loveseat the boys organized the boxes, separating books from crafts from fabric, etc. My husband's comment, "You sure have a lot of fabric."

We tend to purchase houses that need some work done on them so we can add sweat equity. This one is no exception. And we do the work gradually. The green carpet you see will be going. Wood floors are planned, but first we have a wall to remove in the kitchen and an island built. Also some work on the staircase. I'll try to take before photos and post the progress as we go along.

First off....changing some paint colours. This is the current kitchen colour - not my taste at all. Nor the countertop. And the breakfast nook is a dark red. Today....

Paint chips galore. Can you tell I'm leaning towards grey? Blue-grey, I think, and I'm pondering doing the whole house the same colour. Just pondering. Maybe a bit of yellow in the breakfast nook?

I took a last wander through the rooms of our house in Victoria and thought, "how pretty and light this is." Grey skies and rain characterize BC's coast and I want to encourage as much light as possible. Airy and bright is the look I'm going for. We have mostly wood furniture (made with love by my husband and therefore unpaintable) and pale walls seem to set it off nicely.

Thank you all for your prayers and good wishes. The children all left on Saturday evening and Sunday was spent here just the two of us. It was also my husband's birthday. We celebrated Saturday with the family, but I did manage to rustle up a roast chicken, roasted yams, and zucchini gratin for the two of us yesterday. This is a beautiful area in which to live and we are looking forward to doing lots of exploring. But for now...back to the boxes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thoughts on Moving

It doesn't take very long to go from this...

to THIS....

We're in the home run stretch of this move. The movers come on Thursday afternoon to load everything up and will deliver it Friday morning in Parksville. We'll spend the night at our daughter's home.

Over the past several weeks this place where we live has been transformed from a home into a house, a mere shell of the life it once held. Grief and loss are represented in the packing up of treasures of memories. A sense of forlornness fills the rooms. Pictures removed from walls leave blank spaces that are echoed in my thoughts of our immediate future.

This house, our home, has seen enormous joy and enough heartache to make the joy brighter. One high school graduation, three university graduations, two weddings, innumerable raucous family dinners, overnight guests from near and far who have shared pieces of our lives, game nights by the fire, great cooking, dreams, sorrow, and tear-inducing laughter.

This move is our 20th major shift in 33 years of marriage. I grieve moving away from this home because it's the last place we have lived together as a family. It's the place we've lived the longest - almost 8 years. In fact, that doubles the length of the previous longest stay. I know that our new home will be filled with even more laughter, joy and fun times together as a family, but the children will come only as visitors. And that's the way it should be as children grow up, leave home and make their own homes. There's an adventure awaiting Tim and me and I will embrace it in time. But for now, a little grief is in order to enable me to move on.

On Sunday night, the concept of home was reinforced here. Our youngest came home to spend the night because she was sick. Her boyfriend didn't think she should be alone and brought her here, vomiting and pale. We dragged a mattress from the pile, rummaged to find sheets, blankets and towels, and tucked her in. She had a nasty bug and she spent a sleepless night. Yesterday she managed to hold down some liquid and a few crackers but she spent the day on the couch. I wandered in and out of the room, talking when she felt like it, letting her snooze as needed. And I realized that home is more than a house - it's about the people who love and live together whether or not we all share the same roof. I was so very, very happy that she came. Thank you Ashley. I'm sorry you were sick, but you have given me a tremendous boost.

On Sunday the church gave us this beautiful bouquet of flowers. It's wonderful to have something beautiful to look at in the midst of the current chaotic state of our house.

Last night a group of my friends with whom I've worked in the women's programs at church took me out for dinner and gave me this planter filled with beautiful herbs. I am so blessed.

I don't make friends easily and I'm dreading starting over again. But one thought I had when I found out that we were moving comforted me - my blogging friends will still be there, and I can visit you every day. You, my readers, mean a lot to me. Thank you for reading and for commenting. I've found connections through blogging that have surprised me and make me smile. You are my friends and I treasure you.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Squashing any tendrils of guilt over abandoning both my riveting studies and a house burgeoning with boxes for the move, I talked my eldest daughter, on spring break into accompanying me on a little cruise. We caught the 9 am ferry to Vancouver for a day away. I will mention that she is a high school teacher, not a student, because she is often taken for a student. She is good about saying, "no, I'm not a student, but she (pointing to me) is." And the person behind the desk looks very confused and hardly knows what to say because no one ever assumes that I'm a student.

This was our goal - visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery to see the Da Vinci display. We bused from the ferry to the newly opened Canada Line, then zoomed down to the city center, feeling quite cosmopolitan. Although the line ups that existed during the Winter Olympics had dissipated, there were crowds of people enjoying the Paralympics. A very short line into the art gallery soon had us standing in awe in front of Leonardo's anatomical drawings. No photos were allowed once inside the gallery, but I did ask permission to take this one at the entrance.

Fascinating to me was the detail with which Da Vinci executed his drawings. He wasn't interested in just how to draw the human anatomy for artistic purposes, he was enthralled with how everything worked. Meticulous notes accompanied each drawing, written in mirror image - backwards, right to left, with Leonardo's left hand.

Climbing the stairs to the upper floors I looked up into the rotunda, a bit puzzled at this design for an art gallery. All was explained while waiting for the Sky Train (metro) on the way back. An elderly lady informed us that the art gallery used to be the Vancouver court house.

After wandering through the remainder of the art gallery, which included some of Emily Carr's paintings of British Columbia and a photographic display that was most interesting, we went up to the BC display on the 4th floor. Wood products were highlighted. I took a photo of daughter standing in the Spirit Tree - made from the remains of a huge redwood cedar that grew in Stanley Park and was taken down after the big windstorms of several years ago. We have a photo (somewhere now in a box) of the family (sans yours truly who was behind the camera) standing in this hollow tree years ago.

All that culture made us very hungry. Serendipitously, an Italian-themed cafe - Bellagio - directly across from the art gallery beckoned with an outdoor terrace and fragrant aromas. We found a table in a sheltered nook and proceeded to enjoy a pizza together under the sun. It was almost like being in Europe. From there we retraced our journey back to the ferry and sailed away home.

In spite of everything I left undone at home, I walked in the door feeling refreshed and renewed. Stepping back from the chaos of moving was a good idea and I spent the evening happily packing boxes. I also slept well for the first time in several days.

I leave you with a quotation from Leonardo Da Vinci writing about the intricacies of the human body....

"While human ingenuity may devise various inventions to the same ends, it will never devise anything more beautiful, nor more simple, nor more to the purpose than nature does, because in her inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Still Stitching

Time - to stitch, to dream, to breathe. In the midst of my busy life I remind myself to pay attention to the moments. My life is topsy turvy these days - piles of boxes pile up in every room, the fridge and pantry look more and more empty, the detritus of life lies in piles to recycle, to discard, or to donate.

A bit of lavender came to mind, delicate buds on green stems. I haven't stitched now for a couple of days, but I'm making a date with myself tonight to settle in on the couch with my needle and thread.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Little Bit More Every Day

The grasses surrounding the bog remain sere and brown, but there in the distance, the faintest suggestion of green tinges the tops of the bushes. Canada Geese in V-formation fly overhead, headed north once again. Blue waters ripple under the whisper of the raw spring breezes. "It's coming," they say.
Heather glows full and pink in manicured yards - cutting the lawns is already happening.

Hellebores nod their pretty heads in the cool air.

And a cheery robin hops across the lawn, hoping for an unsuspecting worm or bug to cross his path. Yes, it's almost spring, in spite of the snowfall yesterday.

And today, in North America, at least, don't forget to "Spring Forward" one hour tonight.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More French Details

I had such fun with yesterday's post on details in Paris and Versailles Palace that I decided to do another one - details at the Petit Trianon. My family laughs at my interest in Versailles. I told them once that if I lived in France I'd have a season's pass to Versailles. For some reason that caused uproars of laughter. I don't care. So I have a few quirks.
This window is in the gatehouse at the entrance to the Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette's retreat from the formal life of court at Versailles. I think it charming.

Blue and white is my favourite colour combination and this room, painted blue with white details and furnished with blue upholstery is gorgeous. Not everything is white - the parquet floor and wooden furniture pieces provide a nice balance to what could be overwhelmingly matchy matchy.

I think this red ribbon bow accenting the chandelier adds a touch of whimsy to the room. The ribbon matches the red upholstery in this room, the dining room, if I remember correctly. And the colour up towards the ceiling certainly draws the eye up so we noticed the ornate ceiling medallion.

What's not to admire in this photo - a checkerboard floor, not high contrast, but softly grey and creamy white, a stone staircase with that oh, so graceful curving railing, the round oeil de boeuf window, limestone walls - wouldn't you love to sweep down that staircase trailing a long silk gown behind you?

And last, but not least, white roses, full and blowsy with hints of pink deep inside.

Beautiful details are all around. You don't have to go to France to find them. Having a digital camera has made me look at objects in a different way as I try to capture not just memories, but moments and emotions with the lens. What's beautiful in your world today?

Stitch, stitch, stitch

I've decided to stop packing for a week or so or else I'm going to be living in a maze of boxes. The closets are pretty much cleaned out, crafting/sewing supplies are in boxes, bookshelves are empty, all the offseason clothes are packed away and the china cabinet is bare. The pictures are still on the walls, but there's time yet.

So...I'm studying like crazy and stitching when I have a few minutes in the evening.

A bouquet of flowers, a number "3", and some sort of viney-snowdrop-ish square that might get ripped out.

A simple singing bluebird.

And what I've accomplished so far. I'm not following Amy's directions to do the squares one after the other in orderly fashion. I've always been a bit scattered that way. I like the idea of a square here and another one there, and then filling in the gaps. Some squares are outlined already - if I had thread leftover I decided to use it rather than wind it back onto the bobbin for later.

I'm thinking a tree might be next.

There is a growing list of participants on the sidebar of the blog - it's still not too late to join in. I'd like to point your way to someone who started recently. I think Sparks is doing a great job.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

French Details

I wrote another final exam today. Another course to tick off the list. This one was Pratique Orale Thematique - an Oral French course. It involved a lot of speaking of French, which I was happy to do. I can now converse on such matters as traffic problems, environmentalism, prison systems, raising children and other esoteric topics. To celebrate, I came home and looked through my photos of France. Details are what struck me today.

This French street sign in Paris is so pretty. The little curve at the top, the neatly placed nails/screw/rivets on the corners, the blue bordered by green with white writing - doesn't it just look like Paris?

Shiny black painted iron work has always attracted me. It's sturdy yet graceful. Curvey stonework, pink geraniums, tall windows and white limestone buildings - ooh la la!

More details. I went walking early one morning, hoping to get into the Luxembourg Gardens. Alas, they were not yet opened (it was quite early - jet lag had me up loooong before normal). But I noticed these fig plants neatly tied up, standing straight like soldiers, each one labeled.

This is one of my favourite photos, taken in the Grand Salon of Versailles. A window clasp, ornately decorated. Whose hands touched this? Louis XIV, Madame Pompadour, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette? The history seen from this piece of metalwork's perspective is astounding. And I love the chippy paint and patina of the years that the caretakers have not "spruced up" and painted over. A bit of wood peeking through and a bit of grime only adds to the sense of years.

Thanks for indulging me in my reverie of French details. Now it's back to Medieval History, Advanced French Composition, and the Literature of Western Canada.
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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Stitching Along....

Three pretty mother of pearl buttons made for a simple square.

This square was inspired by the sunny days we've been having, but it didn't quite turn out the way I'd hoped. And what's with the wonky jog in the bottom right corner? But I decided to leave it. In the grand scheme of things, it might prove charming. Here's hoping.

And one little tulip-inspired flower. I spent some time today thinking about future squares, what I want to include, etc. I came up with some ideas I'm eager to try out. Some new stitches, too.

Saturday, March 06, 2010


Although a bit cool today, the sun shone brightly and the temperature was perfect for a little gardening. But first, I wandered around, looking at what was sprouting or blooming. I've been watching these hyacinths from the kitchen window. They are even prettier close up. And so sweetly fragrant. One of my springtime favourites.

This winter has been so exceptionally mild that I've had a constant supply of chives and parsley. This clump looks like it needs a haircut!

Lovely vinca with irises peeking out in the background.

And the raised beds are cleaned out, ready for planting or amending. I won't be doing that this year, since we're moving. But perhaps the renters will want to grow something. I know that my daughter, who will be living in the suite, plans to grow a few things. The beds are ready and waiting. The bushes in the top bed are blueberries and in the back of the lower bed, a rhubarb plant is uncurling itself from the ground.

I'm going to miss this yard. The new one is not fenced and the deer run rampant. In time we'll fence off an area for a garden, but it probably won't happen this summer. I do plan on growing herbs since I've heard that the deer avoid those.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Stitch Along Day 3

Another double spread. I think fat French knots are my favourite embroidery stitch. It took me awhile to learn how to do them properly, years ago. It's not too late to join in Amy's 39 squares project. Just a little 1-inch square every day. It's about all I can manage and it's just right!

Alternate studying and packing continues. I finished the work for one French course yesterday and will write the exam next Tuesday. The rest of this week I'm working on a paper for Medieval History - it's been lurking, unfinished, on my computer. No more excuses. No more to work!
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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A Hint of Green

Outside my window leaves are uncurling from their winter rest. Branches swell with promise. The overall appearance of the trees is still brown and sculptural, but from a distance, shrubs are hazed with the delicious fresh colour of spring.

To celebrate - a simple leaf.
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Monday, March 01, 2010

Little by little

In the midst of this.....

a little of this is wonderfully calming. I joined Amy's 39 squares stitch-along, except mine is going to be 54 squares. So I cheated a little and did three squares at once. No pattern, little forethought. I just chose a palette of tans, greens and blues with a little pink and yellow for accents and began stitching, filling the one-inch squares with colour and pattern. Fun and easy - just the ticket for these days of packing and studying.

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Days at Home

  Last night after dinner the sunshine illuminating the bouquet of peonies prompted me to grab my camera. I love the frilly elegance of the ...