Thursday, April 29, 2010

Characteristics of a Good Book

This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. In fact, I read it a few months ago, then lent it out, it came back to me recently and I spent an lovely afternoon reading it again. History, literature, romance, humour, and tragedy fill the pages of this book that is, ultimately, a celebration of life.

It's a book that I hate to see end, yet I race towards the finish line, breathless to see what's going to happen. Re-reading it is satisfying, because I can enjoy the nuances of the characters. And when I finished it, I closed the book, sighed, and put it away to read again one day.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Potpourri Post

A year or more ago I asked for a breadmaker for my birthday. I was tired of eating yukky bread from the store, and couldn't believe how expensive it was. I started making 100% whole wheat bread and the only bread I've purchased since then is the occasional loaf of roasted garlic bread. But a few months ago I came across Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. Since then the breadmaker has languished in the cupboard as bowls of dough slowly develop in my fridge. I love this bread and so does my husband. And it's so easy to make - no long kneading time, and it can wait up to 4 days in the fridge before baking. I'd encourage you to try it out. Over the weekend I also made two lovely baguettes using the same method but they were devoured before I took a photo.

In between bread baking and cooking for company, I started work on the master bedroom. I wanted to paint the trim first, so my husband pulled the carpet away from the walls and I bent it back and nailed it to the floor, then painted the trim. The carpet man came to measure for new carpet on Monday, but just for this room. The rest of the main living level will be hardwood, and some renovations have to happen first. So I'll live with that green for awhile. But at least the bedroom will be done. Last night we painted the first coat of "Fine Silver" on the walls, and I will finish that this morning. What a mess the room looks with everything pulled towards the middle.

This is a bit of embroidery I'm working on. With 10 others I've joined a round robin embroidery project. We each prepare our fabric then send it along to the next person on the list who embroiders something and so on. The schedule is such that I should get my embroidery back mid-September. It will be fun to see what everyone does.

What I really need to do is a rough draft of a Medieval History paper. So, that's where I'm off to. For a break, after I get to half my word count, I'll treat myself to painting the bedroom. Oh, the excitement. Maybe a bit of chocolate, too.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mosaic Monday

Inspired by the mosaics some of my friends have created, I went through my picture file to create one of my own. Thetis Lake Park is a small wilderness in the midst of suburbia. It's a great place for a walk, lounging on sandy beaches, or swimming (when the weather warms up).
Last year, our family went for a stroll around the lake. Sunlight filtering through trees, limpid water, delicate spring leaves, wildflower bursts of colour and the joy of being together. Wonderful memories.

More mosaics can be found here, at the Little Red House.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bathroom Fixups

I really need to remember to take some before photos. I think of it halfway through painting. Anyway, this bathroom was painted that pinky beige that is unflattering in every way possible. Everything was painted this colour - even the trim, and the electrical cover plates and outlets. Now it's a sunny yellow colour.

I dribbled paint on a canvas this morning in the colours I wanted and lightly brushed it for a watery effect. I think I like it, we'll see. It can always be changed.

Glass bottles new and old line the windowsill, newly painted white. I am truly astounded at the difference white trim makes. Everything just brightens up. Definition appears. Love it.

We have a curly willow tree in our front yard. Alas, I think it's days are numbered due to roots in the drain tiles. However, I'm collecting the twigs that fall and if we do take the tree down, I'll be collecting many more. I love their wildly sculptural curves.

Here's the corner. I'm still on the hunt for some fabric with which to make a shower curtain and window blind. And we need to get towel bars. Who would live in a house without towel bars? There was one in this bathroom, but none for the hand towel. In our master bath, there are no towel bars, nor a paper holder. Weird.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Bit of Philosophizing

No, it's not snowing here. But this photo fits the part of the poem that I'm including in this post. It's called On the Flood Plain by Al Purdy, a Canadian poet. The entire poem is longer, and contains some possibly offensive language. It speaks of time and our relationship to time in the form of a man's thoughts standing on the edge of a frozen lake in the wintertime.

It's a poem I've come to love because I think it reflects so much truth. And it comforts me. I think about where I am in life and where I'd like to be and I can panic at the thought that there is just not enough time to do or become all that I would like. I have to choose. The best over the good. The excellent over the mediocre. I look back over what I've accomplished in life and can easily think, "I wasted this or that opportunity." But life is a mixed drink of laughter, tears, leisure, work, expenditure and restoration.

And who but God can judge whether time is spent well or poorly. I can, to a certain measure. But whereas some may suggest that time spent reading a novel is wasteful, I know that when life threatens to overwhelm, such a retreat is restorative and I emerge from that escape ready to face reality once again. Playing with paints and fabric offers me the same restorative effect.

Ultimately, it's the moments that count. Living fully in each moment, whether it be full of pain or joy. Each moment is enhanced or reflected by others, we cannot live in isolated chunks of time. I stand, you stand, in a point in time with the continuum of history behind us and eternity stretching ahead of us. In the poem there is a seamless interaction of stars and frozen water that provides an idealized image of life's moments.

As a human being moving through the landscape of time, connection is established between the past and the present in moments of deliberate attention. The past still lives and gives meaning to the present when humanity is aware of the importance of the present moment and its fleeting nature. The phrase “and there will be time” conveys a confidence in the future that is based on intentional choices in the present. As moments of significance increase in number they will, like the stars, reflect each other and give meaning to all of life.       

Whatever I have not discovered and enjoyed 
is still waiting for me 
and there will be time
but now these floating stars on the freezing lake
and music fills the darkness
holds me there listening
--it's a matter of separating these instants from others 
that have no significance 
so that they keep reflecting each other
a way to live and contain eternity
in which the moment is altered and expanded
my consciousness hung like a great silver metronome
suspended between stars
on the dark lake
and time pours itself into my cupped hands shimmering

taken from On the Flood Plain by Al Purdy

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Around Home

Our weekend has been a quiet one. On Friday night we headed to the big town about 30 minutes away to do some shopping. Driving in the dark after shopping I thought about the pleasure of arriving home, putting on my robe, making a cup of tea and relaxing. With a start I realized that I was envisioning our former home, not our current one. Waves of homesickness washed over me. It's been just three weeks so I need to give myself time, but it's still a bit hard.

The rhododendrons are beginning to open their buds into full flower. We have three large bushes in the front yard. I planted some strawberry plants in pots up on the deck out of reach of the deer, and two blueberry bushes behind a fence for the same reason. The soil here is very different than in Victoria - very shallow sand before hitting hard pan.

In the front yard is this flower bed that holds a non-functioning and crumbling fountain. For now we'll leave the fountain there. The bed was overgrown with weeds so we dug it out, dividing daisies, trimming cotoneasters (I think that's what they are) and planting herbs - rosemary, sage, lemon thyme, oregano and chives. Deer don't like them, but I do!

Talking with the neighbours we discovered that the very tall tree in full bloom just now in a corner of the driveway is a Bing Cherry tree. Oh yummy! I love cherries. I can see Cherry Clafouti, Cherry Cobbler, Cherry Jam, Dried Cherry Biscotti and more in my future.

And inside this weekend I painted the main bath. It's still not put back together, but will be soon. And I made this French Silk Pie. It's a recipe that doesn't use raw eggs like the original. It's rich and chocolately - very small pieces suffice. Find the recipe on my recipe blog.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Volcano Memories

The stories being told about the Icelandic volcano have made me remember our own volcano experience - not nearly as dramatic, but exciting at the time.

We were living in Quito, Ecuador at 9500 feet above sea level. Two volcanoes in the country, Pichincha and Tungurahua became active in 1999. My husband was the administrator of a hospital there and all kinds of disaster plans were written up and even practiced.

We lived about 30 minutes out of town in a relatively safe area. We told our friends they were welcome to come in case of an eruption, but bring water and toilet paper! My husband taught me some basic car maintenance like how to change an air filter because he knew that it would be my responsibility to get the children out of the city and home to safety while he would be busy at the hospital. We carried dust masks with us and used them periodically when the acrid ash clouds fell.

I taught school and what a nightmare that time was. Schools closed off and on as the alerts fluctuated. We had volcano drills instead of fire drills. Elaborate plans were drawn up to ensure the safety of our children. All the teachers made up packets of work for students to keep at home to enable education to continue.

October 7, 1999 school was out, but the teachers were required to come in for a staff meeting. Tim and I left the house around 7:30 am for the 30 minute commute. The children were all still sleeping, happy for a day at home. As we rounded a corner I looked up and could not believe what I was seeing. The mushroom cloud in the photo above had just begun, roiling and boiling above the horizon. Tim pulled over and we watched in awe. Of course, we had no camera. What amazed me was the speed with which this cloud ascended, all the while churning and swirling ferociously. The cloud at the point in the photo is about 15 miles high.

This was just a small explosion but amazing nonetheless. An enterprising photographer took the photo and made copies to sell on the street. I'm so glad I have this.

This extremely unclear photo, snapped with my digital camera from my scrapbook, shows our family in front of the other volcano. All the cloud you see in the background is volcanic. This volcano Tungurahua, showed pyroclastic flows, or lava. We really wanted to see it. So we, along with two other families, packed up our 4 x 4 vehicles (we borrowed one) with camping gear and set out on an adventure. We camped on a ridge opposite the mouth of the volcano which was on the side of the mountain rather than the top. A wide, deep valley separated us from the volcano.

We had a hot dog roast for dinner and then as night fell, we waited for the explosions. The first sign was the trembling of the earth as the rocks made their way up from the bowels of the mountain. We ran to the edge of the plateau to watch, cheering and clapping as molten rocks glowed red and orange, a bright gash against the dark mountain. It was a marvelous spectacle.

In the morning our tents were covered with black ash. We had gritty ash in our hair, our pores and every bit of clothing. Once we got home a hot shower was the BEST thing! Some people thought we were crazy, but I'm so glad we experienced this adventure. It's one of the things we talk about as a family.

Interestingly, I have small bottles of ash from both volcanoes and they are very different. One is grayer and finer, the other coarse and black. One of the memories I have of this trip is of the mighty power of God. Volcanoes are just a hint of his mightiness. And the recent eruption in Iceland is a reminder to me of that power.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Stash Busting

Having to pack all my fabric into boxes to move made me realize that I have waaaay too much of it. I think I keep so much on hand because of 20 years of living overseas when I stocked up on trips home. Fabrics there were sometimes not of the best quality and it was almost impossible to find any 100 percent cottons.

However, since several fabric stores are within 30 minutes, I really need to get over this. Today I rummaged through the stash and found this piece of lineny fabric - probably a linen polyester mix, and decided to make it into a tablecloth for our newly painted breakfast nook. A mug of parsley grabbed from the countertop adds a bit of green to the scene.

My sewing room is not quite the way I want it yet - there are a few boxes still to be unpacked, but today I set up the machine and ignored the mess and sewed. Every little step gets me closer to feeling more at home here.

Thanks for all the encouraging comments. I know many of you have moved a lot, too. We're all in this together and I'm grateful for this blogging community and bloggers whom I have come to regard as friends, most of whom I've not yet met.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 12, 2010

Kitchen/Breakfast Nook Before and After

This is the breakfast nook with the previous owner's table and chairs. I really like the doors and the windows. But the colour just wasn't me. It was dark red. The kitchen, which adjoins this, was a dark reddish/orange. Definitely not me. On Friday I started painting. The first coat was just a primer to cover the dark red. It took me three and a half hours, with all the prep having been done the night before.

This is the primer coat. I do NOT like ladders, and I had to climb to the very top step and stretch up to reach some of the peaks. I have a bruise on my shin from leaning so hard into the ladder. Clutching the ladder with your shin bone is not an easy feat!

I took this photo at night, before we put the blinds back up. Believe it or not, this colour is gray. You don't believe me? Well, neither do I. We thought we had chosen a gray-blue. I had done a large swatch on a piece of white paper and it looked gray. But no matter how we tilt our heads or squint our eyes, we don't see gray, just blue. However, it's a very pretty blue and I think we'll keep it. 

The job is not quite done. The French doors need painting - they are still red, but I'll have to wait for a warm sunny day so I can leave them open to dry. That won't be for a couple of months. And one wall in the kitchen will be removed so I didn't paint that. But the majority of it is completed. 

And I'm amazed at how much I'm affected by colour. When I walk through the house and catch a glimpse of this colour, I smile. I can't help it. It's the only room so far that reflects my taste. And what a difference it makes. My husband laughs, and I have to laugh at myself, too. Who would have thought? 

What shall I paint next?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Where to go from here

I wandered around the house this morning with my camera looking for something pretty to photograph. I didn't find much. The house is functional and tidy, but there's little charm just now. So much needs to be done. Everything needs painting, but some of that has to wait for my husband to fix little things first. The house has a lot of potential but has been sadly neglected.

The one room that's painted is my studio (aka sewing/craft room), a bit of which is shown above. I finished the last coat of paint on Monday and did all the trim in white. I couldn't believe the difference the trim paint made. It just seems to finish off the room, in spite of the closet doors that still need to be installed and the ceiling fan sporting hockey stickers. What I'm waiting for now is storage space. Tim will be installing shelves in the closet, and I need another bookcase or cabinet. I may make a trip to the thrift store this afternoon.

Today is the last day of the 39 days of stitching. Amy finished hers, seen on the 39 Squares blog. I've neglected my stitching for the past two weeks. The poor thing is looking crumpled. Just pulling it out to take this photo got me interested again. There might not be a lot of beauty around the house just now, but I can certainly create a little bit of it with thread and needle.

I'm realizing how much I really enjoy having order and beauty in my world. When I look around my home I want to see things that please me - be it through colour, memory, composition or order. That's what I'm missing just now. Knowing that I can work, little by little, at creating a space that reflects and pleases me helps me to get through this sense of dislocation I'm feeling right now.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Weekend

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

What a weekend! We've been in our new home for one week. My parents came over from the mainland for four nights, and all the children came up from Victoria for Friday night. The house hummed with activity and I like to think it enjoyed all the life lived in it. I know I did.

There was some of this -

some of this, especially on Friday when fierce winds and rain battered the Island and made settling down with a good book the best choice

more reading

a morning of yardwork on Saturday

including some serious pruning and pulling of overgrown bushes

and even a little painting of what we call the "snowboard room" - painted a violent yellow and blue with tons of decals and stickers on the walls. It's now a soft yellow and hopefully will become my sewing/craft room, after we get some shelves built so I can unpack my boxes.

Of course, there was much eating and laughter, lots of conversation, and hugs. Above - a father/daughter moment.

Today, Easter Sunday, is much quieter. The children left last night after our Easter dinner of ham, (with both raisin sauce and sweet mustard sauce options) scalloped potatoes, etc.

One of the very worst parts of moving is finding a new place to worship. It's something I dread. I put on my bravery boots this morning and we went to a new church. I found myself comparing it to our wonderful church in Victoria and it fell far short. I'm going to have to accept that things will be different here, and stop the comparisons. Each church has something to offer, each town has its pluses and minuses.

Tomorrow, my parents leave but Tim has the day off. I'm sure we'll be puttering around the house and maybe the yard, depending on the weather. It feels more like December than April.

I hope your Easter weekend has been full of the hope that Easter brings - hope for forgiveness of past sins, for present strength, and for future grace.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

April Fool's Day

Did you know that April Fool's day is said to have begun in France, when one of the kings decided to switch calendars, making January 1 the start of the new year instead of April 1. 

The information below comes straight from the website link included, and is simplified for children. But if you google "April Fool's Day in France" you'll find lots more information.

The History

In the 16th century, France celebrated the New Year just like we do today, except they partied on April 1st. In 1562, Pope Gregory changed the calendar to the one we use today and from then on, the New Year began on January 1st. Lots of peeps didn't know about the new calendar, or they ignored the new calendar and kept celebrating on April 1st. Everyone else called them April fools and played tricks on them.

Fools Around the World

In France today, April 1st is called Poisson d'Avril, which means April Fish. Children tape paper fish to their friends' backs and when the young "fool" finds out, the prankster yells "Poisson d'Avril!" In England, tricks can only be played in the morning. If a trick is played on you, you are a "noodle." In Scotland, you are called an "April gowk," which is another name for a cuckoo bird. In Portugal, April Fools' is celebrated on the Sunday and Monday before Lent. Pranksters usually throw flour at their friends.

A Bit of This and That

  Off in the distance Mount Baker, in the USA, gleams in the sunlight. My best guess is that it's about 100 km away as the crow flies. T...