Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday's Child

On a Sunday morning in the Amazon jungle, a precious baby girl was born. She was our firstborn and no first baby was ever more anticipated. 

We'd arrived in Ecuador 2 1/2 months earlier and were barely getting settled. Everyone told me that first babies were generally late, so when I awoke in the middle of the night, 10 days before my due date, I assumed it was nothing. 

After a few minutes I lit a candle (no electricity during the nighttime) and opened my childbirth/childrearing book to find out just what might be happening. I concluded I was in labour. 

I was hungry, so on our gas stove, Tim heated up a bowl of soup for me and I ate it at 5:30 am. Then we went to the hospital, in a borrowed car, since our vehicle was stuck in customs. Jostling 30 minutes down a pot-holed riddled gravel road gave me time to practice my breathing. 

I assumed the baby would be born many hours later and no one was more surprised (and relieved) than I when Cristal made her appearance at 8:30 am. There was one phone in town and it rarely worked. I lay in the hospital all that day and the next thinking that no one in our families knew about our beautiful baby girl. On Monday night I left the hospital and before returning to our home, stopped by another ex-pat's home to make a ham radio call to let our families know the news. 

And now, 29 years later, that beautiful baby is grown into a beautiful young woman. She delights me, makes me laugh, and I love spending time with her. 

Happy Birthday, sweetheart!

For Mosaic Monday I created a collage of photos of Cristal. For more mosaics, visit Dear Little Red House - from dish collections to stunning nature scenes, there's a mosaic to enjoy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Evening Stitches

Evenings around here have been spent doing some sewing. There's a shower next week for the newest member of our family who is due to arrive in about 6 weeks or so. I've been keeping most of my handwork off the blog, but couldn't resist showing you last night's effort.

I think this little piggy is adorable. I made her from a felted wool sweater found in a thrift shop from Martha Stewart's pattern, slightly adapted.

Things have been very quiet around here today - literally, as I've lost my voice. I don't feel too bad, but talking is frustrating. I hope my voice returns soon. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

And the walls came a-tumbling down

Renovations took a back seat to the wedding and another project Tim was involved in for a couple of months. Now we're back at it. And boy, is it messy!

Three days of vacation this week are being spent tearing the kitchen apart. The upper wall between the dining room is now out. 

As I'm typing, he's continuing to tear up the floor. The house is covered in dust and I'm thrilled. Progress is being made.

Meanwhile I sit at my desk and try to study. My current assignment is writing a modern version of a fairy tale in French. It's kind of fun. I'm doing the Three Billy Goats Gruff. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Tale of Mushrooms

There I was in the grocery store, filling my paper bag with regular brown mushrooms. A man walked up to the mushrooms, looked at the variety, looked at me and asked, "Do you eat these?" pointing to the golden chanterelles.

"No, I don't think I ever have, " said I, "they're a bit pricey."

"I'm just checking them out," says he, "I pick my own." And he went on his way and so did I.

In front of the broccoli he approached me again. "I have some chanterelles out in my truck in the parking lot and I'll give you some."

I made a non-committal hmmm, a little taken aback. But he was there when I went out with my grocery cart and generously gave me the chanterelle mushrooms you can see in the photo. 

I cooked them with a bit of garlic and cream with a handful of fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon for dinner this evening. Served over a salmon fillet they were mmmmm good!

I'm only sorry I didn't get the man's name to thank him properly.

Chanterelle mushrooms flourish on Vancouver Island. They are found up in the mountains, lurking under mossy trees. Chanterelles are especially prized because attempts to domesticate them have been unsuccessful. Every year many Vancouver Islanders return to their favourite mushroom patches to pick chanterelles and other varieties. Many are sold overseas. A kilo (2.2 pounds) of chanterelles sells for $400 in Japan, I was told. 

So, would you have eaten these mushrooms?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mosaic Monday

A quick trip to Port Alberni this weekend to get winter tires for the car. Why Port Alberni for those who know the area? Nanaimo (our closest shopping center) didn't have them in stock. So up "over the hump" we went.

Rain and wind have left their mark on the forest. Great swaths of golden leaves littered the sides of the highway. There was still plenty of yellow glowing brightly against the dark evergreens on the hills.

Tires purchased, we stopped for hot chocolate and four mini doughnuts at the Donut Shop. You can see their claim to fame in the mosaic above. The store runs on a cash only basis and we had to scramble to come up with the $4.20 for two chocolates and the donuts. 

Home again, with a very short stop at Cathedral Grove, home to a preserved stand of very old trees. The photo where Tim looks so small is taken in front of the oldest tree in the park - 800 years old. It's 76 metres tall, higher by quite a bit than the Leaning Tower of Pisa which is 56 metres tall. I craned my neck back as far as it could go and still couldn't see the top from so close to it.

I'm glad these natural areas are being preserved. We need to wonder at creation's majesty.

Thank you to Mary at the Dear Little Red House for hosting another Mosaic Monday. Please visit for more glimpses of life from around the world.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Taste of the Exotic

We arrived home last night after two days in Victoria. My husband had meetings, I enjoyed time with our girls. 

One of Tim's meetings involved a Japanese gentleman who presented him with two beautifully wrapped packages. In the car on the way home yesterday, I had to open them. Hence, no photo of the wrapped gifts. I was extremely careful about not tearing the paper because it's so beautiful. 

The boxes themselves are also beautiful and sturdy - of good quality paper, and thick enough that they will last a long time. I do love boxes. The green one is embossed. 

Inside the boxes were Japanese pastries. Tim was told that one box has a two-day expiry date and that the date was on the box. Well, I've looked and there's nothing I can recognize except a telephone number. But we're assuming that the triangular pastries are the most perishable - just on a guess. 

The pastries are sweet, the dough soft, and both have a similar filling of some kind of fruit paste. We can't identify it. The triangular ones are cinnamon-flavored. Trying out new foods is fun for us, and these were very different, but very good. Anyone out there have any idea what they are called (in English?) or what they might be made of? I'd love to know.

Today I'm doing laundry, tidying the house and will maybe get to some sewing. I have quite a few projects on the go. What are you doing this October Saturday?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Magazines fran├žais!

This week I was excited to see a package from France in my mail box. I again took part in Floss' magazine swap. This time, my partner was Elizabeth from French Village Life. She's an Englishwoman who moved to France with her husband. Reading her blog makes me want to buy a home in France and move there too. Elizabeth sent not one but TWO magazines, one a decorating/garden magazine, and the other a travel magazine featuring Brittany. I want to pack my bags and go there now! Elizabeth is a wonderful seamstress and also tucked in a lavender-filled hanging heart. So very pretty. 

The pages of the Campagne Decoration magazine are filled with all sorts of beautiful inspiration. I like the French (and other European) publications because their aesthetic seems less staged and more authentic. All the neutrals with a bit of red thrown in is very appealing.

These pages feature Gustavian design influence, another of my favourites. The combination of old and new is so beautiful and welcoming. And in the end, isn't that what making a home is all about - creating a space that provides shelter, not only from the elements, but also from the harsher realities of the world. Not just a place of retreat, but an environment that restores and renews us, enabling us to reenter the world refreshed and ready to take on new challenges. 

So thank you, Elizabeth. I'm looking forward to spending some happy moments with a cup (or many) of tea while pouring over all the lovely details of this magazine.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mosaic Monday

This mosaic is a combination of the beautiful and the prosaic - isn't that what much of life is made of? 

See that red crown moulding - with a blue line along the bottom? It's very redness has grated on me ever since we moved in. But not enough that I hauled out the step ladder and paints to change it. Yesterday - that all changed. I spent Saturday painting doors, door casings, and that red crown moulding. It's now glossy white - two coats of primer and two coats of trim paint. I think it will have another coat before I'm done. 

Next weekend, if all goes as planned, I'll paint the living room walls - tulle white it's called - a lovely shade of gray. 

I turned from craning my neck while painting to look at the living room. And I certainly noticed the mess - all the furniture pulled into the center covered with stained paint. But what struck me was the beautiful October sunshine casting shadows through the windows. 

This afternoon we took a walk down to the marina about 20 minutes from our home. The beauty of the calm sea, the crying gulls, and the fishing boats at their berths tugged at my heart. Beauty is everywhere - when I am aware.

Thanks to Mary at the Little Red House for hosting another week of Mosaic Monday.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A New Playground

Maybe I'm the last person to have found, but I'm both excited and dismayed. Now, in addition to squeezing in time to read so many wonderful blogs, I'll be off to play with photo editing. 

I thought I had to buy Adobe Photoshop or some other program, but I clicked over to Picnik and WOW, I had so much fun!

I took one photo and played with it several ways. I only touched the surface of possibilities.

Here I've done a museum matte and added a bit of text, also subdued the colour.

Black and white, with the same museum matte.

Softened the edges and toned down the colours

Converted to a pencil sketch

And back to normal

What fun! Now, back to studying.....

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Autumn Pleasures

Each season brings its own pleasures. Contentment and fulfillment come, in part, from enjoying each delight as it appears, then letting the seasons pass and new joys take their place.

For now, these are my small delights...

Scuffling through fallen leaves, while admiring the structural elegance of bare tree limbs,

taking time to notice small details, one leaf in the midst of a million,

reading, knitting or conversing with the glow of a candle adding just a bit more light and warmth to a quiet room

warm apple cake, redolent with cinnamon.

And my favourite October poem excerpt....

"Listen, the wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves."

Humbert Wolfe

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

The house is quiet again. But memories linger in the still-extended table, the rearranged cushions on the couch, the pile of linen to be laundered, and the turkey leftovers lurking in the fridge. 

Thanksgiving Day here in Canada is today, but our family celebrated, as usual, yesterday. And my heart is full of love for my family, near and far, and for all the blessings which our good God has given to us. 

Being thankful can be difficult when things don't always go my way. The Psalmist speaks about sacrificing thanks. The two words seem at odds. Sacrificing means giving up something and thanks is given for what is received. There can be a cost to being thankful - a cost to pride, to self-sufficiency, to getting my own way. Being thankful means I must acknowledge that what I have received comes from a source outside of myself - family, friends, government, God. 

Being thankful is a conscious choice when I don't feel thankful. Yet I know that the very act of naming my blessings changes my attitude and my perspective. It doesn't change the circumstances. 

I choose to be thankful.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Just once doesn't form a habit

Making a tarte tatin is on my list of fall things to make. Yesterday I was inspired by Sharon's simple recipe to give it a try. Oh my - caramelized apples and crisp buttery pastry - simple and delicious.

So delicious that I ate a piece for breakfast. Not very healthy, but oh, so yummy. Tomorrow I'll be back to my regular fare.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Sunday's skies: cloudy. Sky and sea melded into still soft gray. Uncanny. Eyes strain to find the horizon that isn't there.

Undaunted we threw our rain jackets into the back of the car and set off to explore the area around Nanoose Bay, just north of Parksville.

A walk through a marina proved irresistible to Tim, and so we tramped the docks together, admiring sailboats, wondering about the fuel budget for the speedster boats, and breathing in the sea air. I took photos.

The marina was almost deserted save for the boats lined up in their slips, silent and waiting. 

But, as we strolled along the last finger, an older gentleman approached. We greeted him with a smile, intending to pass by.

"You two look happy," he said. "You must own a sailboat!"

"We did," we replied, "but we sold it a couple of years ago."

"I had a boat," he said. "I sold it yesterday. I built it myself and poured time and money into it. It was my dream."

"Why did you sell it?"

"See these dark glasses? I'm developing glaucoma. I can't see well enough to be out on the boat by myself. You know, I think I shed a few tears last night, thinking about my boat."

Dreams come and dreams go. Sometimes we let go of them willingly, their purpose fulfilled. 

Other times, dreams are snatched away from us by any number of reasons - health, death, finances, changing priorities.

The death of a dream is often difficult. Something is taken away. Whether the dream is big or small, loss ensues. Grief takes the dream's place. Bewilderment, questions follow. 

After leaving the marina we climbed Natch Hill. Here we viewed the undulating coastline from distance. We saw a bigger picture. Our perspective had altered. 

Old dreams die. They are treasured and remembered, but other dreams come to take their place. New vistas are explored. In time.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Mosaic Monday

There are always a number of projects on the go around here. I sometimes wish that I were interested in just one thing. But I like to try almost everything. And I usually end up enjoying it. 

Creating with my hands is innate. I can't stop. If I don't create with fabric, thread or paper, I'll create with food or flowers. I'd be the one on the desert island arranging rocks in patterns. 

Today's mosaic is a collection of projects made thus far in 2010. These are the small ones. The bigger ones, like painting and renovating, are not included. 

Now in the fall is when my creative juices really get going. My mind whirls with possibility. I've started a couple of projects which will have to wait to be shown as the eventual owners read this blog. 

 Creativity takes so many, many forms. My husband doesn't think of himself as creative at all, but I know differently. Our home is filled with beautiful furniture lovingly hand made (maybe that should be a post for another Mosaic Monday). Words, paint, plants, food, dance - creativity knows no bounds.

How about you? Do you find yourself having to express your personality in some way? What do you do that's creative? 

Visit Mary at the Little Red House for more creative mosaics.

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