Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mosaic Monday

Do you prefers fruits or vegetables? For me, it's always been the vegetables. Even when we lived on the equator where pineapples, papayas, mangoes and bananas were plentiful I still preferred carrots and broccoli, onions and tomatoes.

Since I started blogging I also started taking pictures of food. It's an art I hope to improve upon and more difficult than I had thought. The angles, the lighting, the temperature of the food - everything matters. I've learned that if something is piping hot the steam ruins the photo.

So on this Mosaic Monday, hosted by Mary at the Little Red House, I've chosen to feature some of the things I'm looking forward to this summer - freshly picked vegetables, either from my garden or farmer's markets. Yum!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

55 Years!

Congratulations, Mom and Dad!

Today is my parents' 55th wedding anniversary! Don't they look great? They are wonderful role models for their children and grandchildren, and even great grandchildren. Their love for each other and their faith in God is strong and beautiful, and I'm so thankful to have them in my life.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Nature Inspired

When we walk on the beach I'm always on the lookout for sea glass. What you see above represents everything I've found so far. A lot of our beaches are just too rocky for glass. But I'll also pick up interesting stones, small pieces of driftwood, shells or whatever takes my fancy. 

I bring them home and put them into a dish, or line them up on a table top or windowsill and admire their organic shapes. I have small bags of such treasures stashed away in the cupboard and periodically I take them out and shuffle things around.

I think that a room is not complete without something from nature in it. A living plant on one side of the mantel combines with a crystal vase holding tall sculptural twigs for a vignette with lots of texture.

Now that summer is soon to come (I hope - it's been raining steadily the past few days), there will be flowers and herbs galore. I like to bundle lavender in an old linen napkin, tie it with some ribbon and lay it, like a bouquet, on a tabletop. When the lavender dries it can be gently crumbled off the stems and used for sachets in the linen closet.

Here, sea glass combines with candles and a jug of rosemary for a pretty summer table setting. If flowers are scarce, greenery is a great option. This year, in our new home, with deer munching almost everything in sight, I'll be looking for more of this kind of growth to fill my home with fragrance and colour. Deer don't like herbs, I've been told. 

Bringing nature indoors adds texture and life to a room. I'm inspired by the infinite colours and shapes that exist in creation. I'd love to hear your ideas for how you bring a bit of the outside into your home.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Shell on the Beach

This shell is open, its occupant gone. It lies on the beach, washed by the waves, tumbled on the rocks, caressed by the wind.

Tightly closed it is stronger, less vulnerable to being crushed or chipped. But it lies open, its opalescent aubergine interior visible to all. Closed, its beauty is hidden from the world. I wouldn't have taken a second look, would not have stooped to examine the perfectly formed halves, the swirls of colour, had it not been open.

Is there a lesson in this shell for me? I think I weep too easily. I laugh with equal readiness. Emotions expose my vulnerability. Sometimes I want to close myself up tightly from the world, holding my hurt and my joys to myself, not willing to share. But there is beauty in the life I've lived, beauty because of God's presence. Keeping myself closed hides the work God does, the beauty He is creating in my life.

And so, even though it's uncomfortable, even painful at times, I want to be open, even vulnerable to what life has to offer. There's a lot of joy in our family just now, and a lot of sorrow on varying levels. Balancing the two is difficult. But through it all, the light and the dark, God is creating beauty.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time." 
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Monday, May 24, 2010

Flowers to Snow to Beach

We've had a thoroughly wonderful and busy weekend. All of our children came up, in shifts, over the three days. Friday night our eldest daughter and her husband arrived in time for dinner and we had a lovely evening together. We watched the movie Chocolat and then chatted until midnight!

The next day we thought we'd take a hike on Mount Washington. We wanted to see the wildflowers.And walk along the boardwalk. Hmmmm.

Instead, we went hiking in the snow. When we caught glimpses of the boardwalk, it was under three feet of snow. Good thing we'd brought layers of clothing.

Most of the trail markers were under the snow, but Tim noticed a corner poking up and dug this one out. They are normally about waist height.

The compass and map came in handy since the markers were lost in the snow. I don't think we really found out where we were, but we didn't get lost thanks to our trusty guides.

I took the opportunity to make a snow angel. Bad idea. The wet snow soaked into my blue jeans instantly. Good thing it wasn't cold out! But a hot shower when we got home sure felt good.

That night our son and his wife arrived for dinner. We played a rousing game of Puerto Rico on the living room floor and then chatted until after midnight. I didn't want to go to bed - I might miss something! So I propped my eyes open and we laughed and chatted until we all headed off.

Sunday morning we took a walk on the beach. It was drizzly and cool, but the waves rushed upon the shore, the gulls picked their way through the water, and the air smelled of the salty sea.

Our daughter and her husband left around noon, our son and his wife stayed until later. The gentlemen snoozed after lunch while the ladies read. 

Tim and I headed out to evening church, then spent a quiet evening at home. We did not stay up until midnight.

This morning our youngest daughter and her fiancĂ© arrived. We spent the day discussing wedding plans. They left at 7:00, after dinner. Now it's 2 1/2 hours later and I just got off the phone - they had a flat tire on the way back to Victoria. I'm thankful that they are safe and well. 

Cooking and hosting the people I love is one of my favourite things to do. It's a tangible way of showing love. And now, I think there are enough leftovers in the fridge for a few days of NOT cooking, which is also a good thing!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Letter Writing

These stacks of paper represent 21 years of my life. My husband and I moved to Ecuador, South America in 1981. I was 6 1/2 months pregnant; our eldest daughter was born 2 months after our arrival. There was no internet. The tiny jungle hamlet we lived in had one phone that rarely worked and a call to Canada cost more than $5.00 per minute. Letter writing was our contact with home.

I wrote letters constantly. Long epistles to our parents, chronicling for them the daily routines and the small milestones of their grandchildren's lives, the sometimes funny and sometimes tragic clashes with culture, and the joys and sorrows of everyday life. Shorter, less frequent letters were written to siblings and friends. I wrote at least one letter, or part of a letter, every day.

Receiving letters was the most exciting part of my day. I walked down to the plaza first carrying a baby, then holding a toddler's hand to ask Noemi, the postmistress, if there was any mail. When I saw my mother's handwriting, or my mother-in-law's, I knew I had a treat in store. They wrote long newsy letters back, filling us in on the world that was so very far away.

I didn't keep the letters I received. I wish I had. But a few years ago, Tim's mom told me that she had all my letters. Last summer she gave them to me. Over a period of several months, I took them out one by one and read them, remembering, laughing, crying. Memories and emotions rushed back through time. I read things that had passed from my conscious memory.

Even after I started emailing instead of writing, Mum printed out the emails and kept them. These letters are a treasure to me. My children think I should write a book about our life there. And maybe, some day I will. It would be something for my grandchildren to know how their parents were raised, so far away, in a land so different from Canada.

Today in the UK is National Letter Writing Day. It's a lost art, but one that has value. Do you have letters you're keeping?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How to Make a Framed Monogram

The idea for this monogram has been rolling around in my head for quite some time but getting around to actually doing something has taken longer. Yesterday morning I finished the course work for my Medieval History - exam on the 7th of June, so I rewarded myself by making this monogram for above our bed. Call me paranoid, but I don't like having anything heavy above the bed - too many earthquake scares. This piece does not have glass in it.

First choose a font. I wanted something flowing, but not too elaborate. This French Script MT seemed just right to me. A less curvy script like Verdana or Arial would give a more modern, graphic look. I printed out the letters, T, L, and O on 8 x 11 paper. The T and L are size 500, the O, 800. 

Cut out the letters. I find using a small pair of scissors, like these suture scissors, easiest.

For the background, lightly spray a piece of white board with silver paint. I did not cover the board completely because I wanted a mottled effect to give some texture. Let it dry.

Arrange the cut out letters on the board, then trace them lightly in pencil.

Paint the letters using black acrylic craft paint. It took two coats to cover thoroughly. A black marker could also be used.

Et voilĂ , a simple, inexpensive monogram. The size is about 16 x 20 (inside), and I chose that size because I had an old frame I wanted to use. Changing the font size means you can make your monogram the size to fit any frame you might have.

I'm encouraging a serene and simple feeling in the master bedroom and I'm very pleased with the way this looks. The silver paint on the mat is almost the same colour as the gray walls. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wedding Plans

It's going to be a short engagement. The date is set for September 4 and things are falling into place quite nicely. The dress is ordered, the church for the ceremony reserved, pastor consulted. Lots of little details still need to be taken care of, but step by step we'll get there.

Ashley is planning to use my veil, so today I'll be clipping all those 70s daisies off the edges. As I clip I'll remember my own wedding day and how beautiful it was. I felt like a princess, glowing and happy. I have never regretted marrying my husband although it hasn't all been wine and roses.

I wondered what to do with the trim I'm removing and came up with what I think is a brilliant plan. I'm going to save it for embellishing dresses for my granddaughters. A little bit of heritage passed down to those not yet born.

The ceremony will be rather formal, in a beautiful downtown church with stained glass windows and high arches. But the reception is going to be much more casual. Ashley has talked about a medieval fair type atmosphere for her wedding, long before Owen came on the scene. Envision this flower-strewn field set with round tables, white linen, and sparkling glasses. It's an Artifact Society, and this patch of grass is surrounded by antique farm equipment, a pond, walking trails and quaint buildings. Since Ashley works for a company that designs museum displays and cultural presentations, this is just perfect!

Oh, it's going to be so much fun!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Monday Blues

Mondays are rarely blue in the moody sense for me. It's the start of a new week, with unknown potential. But I do love the colour blue, and here are some of my favourite blue shots. Flowers from my garden (last year), some stitching projects, a fanciful handpainted chest seen in a store in Roche Harbour, a chair from Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon, and the blue, blue water and sky seen from East Sooke Park.

I'm linking to Little Red House for Mosaic Monday. Visiting Mary's blog will provide you with a whole list of wonderful mosaics.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Humble Rag

There's a roll of paper towel lurking somewhere in this house, but I hardly ever use it. Instead, I use rags. The best ones are old cloth diapers, but since my children are grown, those disappeared a long time ago. Worn out t-shirts, soft cotton sheets and shirts, holey towels - that's where my rags come from now.

I use them, toss them in the wash, and either fold them neatly or throw them into the recycled (from Christmas oranges a couple of years ago) plastic box in the laundry room cupboard. Rags are so much more absorbent than paper towel, especially when painting. Here are some of the uses for rags:

* cleaning bathrooms
* washing windows
* wiping floors
* painting rags
* dusting furniture
* wiping baseboards
* absorbing water overflows from plants (don't tell me this doesn't happen to you)

Lemon oil, a soft rag, and a bit of elbow grease - there's nothing like it to make furniture gleam.

Rags are different from cloths. I use a dish cloth for washing dishes and counters. It gets laundered, and regularly bleached to remove odors. Dish cloths are a higher form of rags - they don't wipe up floor spills. But when I married my husband, he brought the term "dish rag" along and it persists. I cling to the "cloth" usage, how about you?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Creamy White

The Pacific Dogwood is British Columbia's provincial flower. It blooms in April and May and is at its peak just now here. I love the creamy blossoms against the green cedars and firs.

When I was growing up much farther north, I knew that the Dogwood was our floral emblem, but there were none in our area and I don't recall ever seeing one until I was at least a teenager. So now, I revel in the beauty of dogwoods that bloom for just a short time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

These Boots were made for Walking

It was just my husband and me on Mother's Day. We were in Victoria the previous weekend and celebrated with the children then. Tim took me out for a wonderful meal on Saturday night. We enjoyed a four course dinner and rolled ourselves home to read and talk while digesting. We'd worked hard on the yard during the day, hacking, pulling, pruning and evaluating, so our dinner was a reward. Can one PRE-burn off calories?

Sunday dawned sunny and clear and we decided to go hiking. Beach or mountain, that was the question. Mountain was settled on, so we drove out to Cameron Lake.

We parked in the lot by the lake, crossed the highway and began hiking up the trail. It was listed as an easy hike, suitable for novices.

The trail followed a pretty stream for quite some time. Birds chirped in the woods, fresh scents of pine and fir and forest floor invigorated the senses, and we were full of energy.

We stopped along the fairly steep trail for "picture taking" and "scenery admiration" aka to catch my breath. Here, a self portrait of the two of us taken by my husband with the longer arm.

Higher up we ran into a little "leftover winter." But we didn't need extra clothes. No sirree, we were sweating from the effort.

Once we achieved the lookout, the view was spectacular. There's the lake, far below, where we began. Beyond the mountains is the Strait of Georgia with Denman and Hornby Islands to the right, and in the far distance, mainland British Columbia.

Having eaten a late breakfast, and not really assuming the hike would take this long, we had packed a light snack - apples, cheese, mini wheats and dark chocolate. It was enough. We sat at the top for about 25 minutes, joined by a pair of cheeky birds wanting a handout. They were not afraid of us, prancing and chirping just a foot away. We found ourselves guarding the food in our hands, for if we gestured while holding something, or even held the food visible in our fingers, they swooped down and attempted a theft. Obviously, they had been fed by other humans.

Two hours straight up, 25 minutes of rest, 90 minutes down. By the time we reached the stream, I wanted nothing more than to stop and cool my feet. We soldiered on.

In the car on the way home we realized that we haven't done a hike like this in years. Our hikes in East Sooke Park involve much more up and down, not this steady ascent and then descent. But we're glad we did it, and maybe one day we'll train a bit and climb to the top of Mount Arrowsmith, not just to the lookout.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

I'm off to go hiking with my husband this morning, but wanted to do a quick post wishing some very special women in my life a Happy Mother's Day. My mom, in the picture above with me and my sister (edited to add:  I was halfway up the mountain on our hike when this grammatical error came to mind - I should have said, "in the picture above with my sister and me") on our trip to Europe last summer. My sister is going through a very hard time as a mom - her second son is battling cancer. What a heartache for a mother.

My mother-in-law and sister-in-law, both wonderful women, and wonderful mothers. I am blessed to have these women in my life.
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Friday, May 07, 2010


Calming relief. The master bedroom is ready for the fun part of decorating. The painting is done - the walls are a soft grey in a suede finish (similar to eggshell). Baseboards and trim in white. The carpet is brand new as of this morning. I see we left one picture on the wall for the carpet layers to admire. I'm sure they felt better for that.

I have all the windows open blowing the fresh air through to waft away that new carpet odour. And here is the door into the ensuite bathroom. Not pretty at all. We stacked our bed, end tables and dresser in there, a chest of drawers in the other bathroom down the hall, and clothes are piled in the dining room. It's a total mess.

But this is calming. And tonight after dinner, we'll put our room back together. I wish I was strong enough to do it all right now on my own. But I'm not, so I'll have to wait. Wrestling with those big pieces of furniture would not help matters at all. Bummer. This is the doorway into the closet, and to the right is the doorway into the hall.

I've discovered I don't do well living in a mess. Although we slept in the fairly put together guest room, I woke up at night in a panic at the thought of the chaos throughout the house.

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny, so we'll be out in the yard, if I can stop puttering away in my new space. What are your weekend plans?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

It's a Small, Small World

There are many wonderful things to see in Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, the bridges, etc. When I was there last June, I wanted to take some photos of the ordinary things that said "France" to me. This street sign was one of them. 

How surprising that today, while reading a "new-to-me" blogger, Penny from The Comforts of Home, I saw the same street. The signs are different - this one has more information, but don't you think this is another of those amazing blogging coincidences?

Last week I received an email from a reader of Barbara's Ramblings from an English Garden. She is a long-time friend of Barbara's and does not have a blog. But she found me through Barbara's blog, read a bit and discovered that I had a deer problem. She graciously offered a suggestion to the problem as she lives in North Carolina and has her own deer. Then she mentioned that she was an artist and had taken classes with an artist from Victoria, Brian Simons. Perhaps I knew of him?

Well, sort of, yes. Before Brian began painting full time, he worked with my husband in a senior's care home. Now, isn't it a small, small world after all?

Spring's Flirting Ways

February seemed warmer and sunnier than this first week of May. Hail pelts against windows, wind shreds the petals from tulips apart and scatters the cherry blossoms like confetti.

This past weekend while I was in Victoria, I took a wander through our old yard. (Our daughter is living in the basement suite, with renters upstairs.) Bluebells were one of the few flowers in bloom just now. I took this picture a year ago and it reminds me that I need to find a new mint plant for the garden here. It shouldn't be hard given the way that mint loves to spread. It's impossible to get rid of it. I love its vigorous green growth.

These cornflowers or bachelor's buttons - I've heard them called both - are blooming in our yard here. It's a perennial that scatters itself around the yard, but not uncontrollably. Blue flowers are relatively rare, but are some of my favourites.

On the renovation front, the master bedroom carpet is being replaced on Friday. Last night we took everything out of the walk in closet. Other closets are packed full, and there are piles of things on the dining room floor. It's a mess all right. We painted the room (and closet) a lovely shade of gray called Fine Silver.

I had to pick up more paint at the hardware store yesterday and as the girl mixed the paint she said, "mmm" just like some of us say over chocolate. She said the colors she was putting in were just beautiful. Then when I went to take the can to the cashier, she said, "oh, wait, let me open it. I want to look at it." And it is beautiful. I'll be taking more photos as the room comes together. But I think I've found the colour that I want throughout the rest of the house.

I hung this collage that I made a couple of years ago above my kitchen sink here in my new home. This photo was taken elsewhere. It reminds me that home is where I make it, and that friends to welcome are found everywhere. It just takes time.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Exciting Times Ahead

There were candles and rose petals....

...a table for two on the beach....

...chocolate covered strawberries and champagne...

....a question and an answer....

and photographers hidden behind rocks and trees....

The answer to the question was YES, the champagne cork popped and Ashley and Owen can't stop smiling. Our youngest is getting married - in 4 or 5 months! Yikes! Lots of planning to do. We'll know the date when we get the venue!

We're all so very happy. Congratulations Ashley and Owen!

Of Spare Rooms and House Guests

  If you've ever read L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables , you'll remember the importance of the spare room. It was a long-...