Sunday, October 30, 2011

October Afternoon

Day dawned wet and gray. After church my parents took us out for lunch. As we sat at our table overlooking the ocean, patches of blue sky appeared until, after not much time, the lovely azure of autumn covered the sky.

We drove out to the fish hatchery and watched hordes of salmon, driven by instinct flinging themselves repeatedly at the fish ladders until they succeeded in making progress upstream. Other salmon had spawned and then, their life cycle finished, lay in the water, providing nutrients for the future.

Screaming gulls fought over fish while two bald eagles watched from high perches. Fish skeletons littered the ground here and there, a testament to the eagles' appetite. 

Sunlight filtered through the trees, some still hanging onto green leaves, others almost bare. Shadows fell long on the ground, even at 3 pm, giving heed to the quickly shortening days. A lovely day to savour October joys.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bon Weekend!

I write in the dark of a quiet morning. Outside my window the sky is barely beginning to lighten. Treetops toss their heads in a dawn dance. 

The furnace clicks, then hums and warmth fills the rooms. My cup of tea sits alongside the computer and from time to time a sip of chamomile/peppermint soothes my throat. 

It's Friday. Tim's gone to work. My parents arrived last night and are not yet up. I hear stirrings from the guest room and will soon go prepare breakfast. During these quiet moments I reflect on the weekend ahead and my birthday on Sunday.  Another year passes, full of the mixed drink that is life - a mélange of joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, hope and despair. Life is like that no matter what one's age. 

Being with those I love and those who love me is the best way to celebrate. Quiet, everyday pleasures become more meaningful shared. I'm looking forward to this weekend. We have nothing big planned, just being together. I'm so thankful.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reality Shot Thursday and Apple Pie Squares

Here is is. An unadulterated photo of the front hall closet. Scarves dangling, shoes askew. In the bag to the right I keep my shopping bags, underneath is the earthquake emergency kit. That glowing thing in front of one of the baskets - I had to go look. It's a reflective strap for walking at night. A little tidying is in order. 

But first - time for a break. I'd be happy to serve you a cup of coffee or tea and a piece of this apple pastry I just made.

Just give me a minute to tidy the front closet. And if you can't come today, well, you can find the recipe over at my other blog, here

Joining in with other Reality Shot bloggers at Mockingbird Hill Cottage, hosted by Claudia.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A C*onfession and a Plan

The C*onfession: These stacks represent only a very small portion of my fabric collection. Yes, I am a fabri-holic. There's something compelling about purchasing fabric. It's the hope of creating something, the dream of sewing a garment that will fit well, look good, and make me feel gorgeous. Or the satisfaction of stitching something to make my home pretty, or to give to a friend. 

Since I have more time these days, I took all the quilting cottons, washed them and ironed them. It took a LONG time. And now, I'm sewing. Projects are not ready to be revealed yet, but I'm having a good time, sitting in my sewing nook, listening to the hum of the machine, snipping, clipping and occasionally pulling my hair out in frustration. It's all part of the experience. 

The Plan: I've determined to enjoy the process as well as the product. And to let go of perfectionism. And to use up what I have before buying more. There. I've said it. 

I love making things - do you?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mosaic Monday - A Weekend in October

We're getting together with family a lot recently. We drive, or they drive. I don't mind either way. 

This weekend I spent lots of time playing with the grandbaby. We introduced her to stairs and she climbed them like a trooper. Going back down we'll leave for another time. I sat down at the piano with her and played Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. She was more fascinated by the lamp on the piano top. 

It was a good weekend for walks. This afternoon we wandered down to the farm. Pigs, goats, sheep, llamas, calves, horses, ducks and pigeons were on view. Little Miss Blue Eyes liked them all. I couldn't resist this rakish photo of her, hat askew, with a big grin for Nana.

Joining in with other bloggers for Mosaic Monday, hosted by Mary at the Little Red House. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Season of Waiting

They sit on the porch. Blank canvases, waiting. 

Planting in spring is full of anticipation. Some seeds sprout in a matter of days, all within a week or two.

Planting in autumn is a measure of hope. The long winter lies ahead. Yet hidden in ordinary brown soil lie coloured treasures. Spring will come again. And so we wait.

Grey clouds rush across the sky today. Rain spats against the windows. Fistfuls of leaves fly from the trees. 

Their brief wild dance ends as they hit the wet ground and there they lie in a sodden heap, golden fading into brown.

Life is not a matter of whether or not we wait. Waiting is a given. We wait for seasons, for dinner, for children. Time passes and we wait. The question is, how do we wait well? 

Finding satisfaction and joy in the everyday moments is one way. Looking for the good in life, and there is much good. 

Today I bake bread, make soup, tidy my home and take pleasure in the mundane that is made meaningful by my attitude. 
And so I wait, for spring to bring the brown earth of my pots to life, for whatever the grey clouds bring today, for sharing soup and bread with those I love. 

How do you wait well?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Garden Cleanup and Thoughts on Self-Sufficiency

Saturday morning dawned sunny and bright. Fortunately, I wasn't up in time to see the actual dawn. Getting up on weekday mornings in the dark is enough for me. 

My self-appointed task for the day - garden clean up.

The petunias in the deck flower boxes did poorly this year. Lack of warmth and sunshine perhaps, until too late in the season. For whatever reason, I was happy to tug them out and replace them with dark purple pansies that will provide a bit of colour throughout the winter.

Next, I harvested all the tomatoes lingering on the vines. Three large shallow bowls hold green and semi-ripe tomatoes on the dry sink. I'm hoping they will eventually ripen. 

After pulling the vines and the accompany weeds, I planted some fall starters - spinach, lettuce, and cauliflower. This is something new for me - fall gardening. I'm not certain that I like it. Autumn is usually the time to put the garden to bed for the season and take a break. However, in an effort to grow a little more of our own food, I've made the effort. We'll see what the result is.

I planted 6 lettuces in the beginning of September and we're now harvesting enough for a salad every other day or so. 

Spreading compost over the garden in the spring means lots of volunteer plants. These are mostly tomatoes and squashes, but this year, I discovered a number of avocado plants. So I rescued three of them and planted two of them in a pot which I left outside all summer. It's still sitting on the deck. The other I found on Saturday and brought it into the house. The plants grow well although I have no illusions of ever harvesting an avocado from them. More's the pity since I do love avocados. We had them on our property in Ecuador, along with lemon trees.

We brought the table up from the lawn to the deck. Whoever planned this house didn't think much of privacy. The deck is in full view of two streets and I'm not about to have my dinner out there. On the other hand, there is a beautiful view of the mountain from the deck, easily visible over the tops of cars and passersby. Still - I prefer eating in privacy.

These herbs, rosemary, thyme and variegated sage, should survive the winter in their pots and they provide a little more life to the deck.

I recently read this book - 

and it has me thinking about how we eat. We meaning my husband and myself. We've often joked that if our food consumption was dependent on our production of food, we'd be dead in no time. I love harvesting fresh food from the garden and eating it during the summer, but my focus is not preserving food for the winter, as my grandmothers and mother once did.

I do make jams and jellies from fruits in season, freeze large quantities of berries, can a few pints of tomatoes, dry a few more and so on. I like buying locally produced meat and cheeses, but only when convenient. (Right now it's a 15 minute walk to the Cheeseworks where a deep freeze also holds beef, pork, and lamb.) The thought, though, of relying almost solely on local or my own food production is daunting. It would be a full-time job for the spring and summer.

Have any of you read this book? What did you think? How much food do you produce or buy locally?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's a Party!

A glance out the window this morning revealed frost-tipped grass. The first frost of the season. 

But the sun shone gloriously, beckoning and beguiling us outdoors. Englishman River Falls is beautiful in every season. The leaves are just beginning to turn color here and the forest is taking on the quiet browns and dull greens of a west coast autumn. It was a party of the quiet sort - no wind today, just the deep peace of the woods. Still, this poem came to mind --

October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came.
The Chestnuts, Oaks and Maples,
And leaves of every name.

The Sunshine spread a carpet
And everything was grand
Miss Weather led the dancing
Professor Wind the band.

The Chestnuts came in yellow
The Oaks in crimson dressed
The lovely Misses Maple
In Scarlet looked their best.

All balanced to their partners
And gaily fluttered by;
The sight was like a rainbow
New fallen from the sky.

~George Cooper

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Mary at the Little Red House

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Autumn: a Time for Reflection

"If winter is slumber and spring is birth, 
and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection.
It's a time of year when the leaves are down 
and the harvest is in
and the perennials are gone.
Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year
and it's time to reflect on what's come before."

Mitchell Burgess

Friday, October 14, 2011

Happy Day

My world traveler daughter informed me that I hadn't put up a blog post today. Well, I had plans, but they haven't come to fruition yet - maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime, my talented daughter-in-law sent me photos of the graduation dessert and celebration. Isn't that a gorgeous plate? The dessert was scrumptious, too.

And here's a photo with me holding the dessert and the roses, and Tim holding grandbaby. We all look pretty happy. And so we were. And are.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Blustery Day and a Question

Yours truly lives in an area where wildlife is free to wander through yards (unless stopped by a fence), and where we have easy access to the ocean. We like the ocean more than the wildlife.

Mid-afternoon on Monday, after a quiet day at home, the rain had slowed and we decided to go for a walk. There was a bit of wind, so we put on light fleeces. 

Just around the corner a wary deer stood in the road. As we approached he skittered into the edge of the forest, but stood obligingly still while I took his picture.

We meandered down to the water, about 20 minutes from home. The closer we got, the more the wind blew and the colder I felt.

On the breakwater the waves dashed in fine spray against the rocks. I stood on Tim's leaside to protect myself from the wind. It didn't help much. But it was a fine sea - turbulent and invigorating - just the thing after a quiet day.

These gulls seemed to be enjoying themselves. They didn't have to flap their wings at all to stay aloft - they turned into the wind and held themselves just so. A joy ride, I think.

Our tradition for most dinners is to enjoy a meal at the table, then clean up, go for a walk or play a game (or both) and then enjoy dessert later. 

On Sunday, while I played on the couch with grandbaby, Travis brought out the camera, "to record Nana with Adria." 

Then, I was startled to hear "Pomp and Circumstance" begin playing. Out marched Katie and Cristal with roses and a beautifully decorated plate with "Congratulations Graduate" written in chocolate around the rim. It was beautiful! Katie had made a pumpkin roll with a cream cheese filling, and topped it with whipped cream and a chocolate leaf. Yum! And Travis took photos - which I'll share later.

Tim gave me a card with a gift certificate for a new camera. I use a very simple point and shoot and am ready to upgrade a little. I have to do my own research, says he. So, I'm asking you, my readers - what kind of camera do YOU have for blogging photos? And what would you like? Which features are most important to you?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fabric Pumpkin Tutorial

I seem to have a thing for pumpkins this year. White ones. First, the paper book ones. Now these. I've been admiring the plushy velvet ones I've seen, but didn't have any velvet. What I do have is some silk dupioni. 

So I thought I'd whip some up, and in the process, do a little tutorial in case any of you want to try them out. They are easy to make.

Supplies you will need:

fabric scraps for pumpkin
(I used silk dupioni, but you could use a print, or velvet, or whatever you have)
even smaller fabric scraps to hold rice in the bottom of the pumpkin
(tight weave - about 6 inches square)
thread to match
hand sewing needle
sewing machine
rice, flax seed, or barley
polyester stuffing
stem - either from a real squash or pumpkin, dried
OR a stick
wire for tendrils
paper for leaves

1.  For three pumpkins, cut the following:

- three circles of silk dupioni (or whatever you are using for the outside of your pumpkin) with these diameters, 9 inches, 10.5 inches, and 13.5 inches
- six circles of cotton, two each with a diameter of 3.5 inches, 4.5 inches, 5 inches

NOTE: These numbers are not set in stone - I used plates, bowls and lids that were in my kitchen 

2. Using your sewing machine, stitch the two smaller circles together, leaving about 2 inches open for filling. I drew a pencil line over the stitching so you can see where I stitched. 

3.  Using a funnel, pour rice, barley or flax seed into the circle to fill it. Don't overfill. This will sit in the bottom of your pumpkin to give it shape and a nice weight.

 4.  Shake the filling to one side and carefully stitch the opening closed. Don't run over the filling with your needle - breakage could occur.

5.  Center the filled pouch on a pumpkin circle. 

6.  Using doubled thread in a hand sewing needle, stitch, using a running stitch, around the edge of the pumpkin, folding over the edge as you stitch.

7.  Pull the stitches tightly to gather, leaving an opening for filling. Don't cut your thread.

8.  Fill with fibrefill. Don't overfill the pumpkin or it will look stiff and unnatural. You want a soft, squishy look. Push the stuffing around the edges to plump them out.

9.  Place the pumpkin stem in the opening and pull up the threads around it. When the stem is secure, tie off your thread ends and cut them.

10. Twist wire around the stem for tendrils. 

12. Make paper leaves from an old book. My book was not old so I colored the leaves with a tea wash, letting them dry naturally which resulted in a bit of crinkling that I think adds to the verisimilitude of the look. Truth to be told, I used one of my French books - one that I didn't enjoy and will never read again. 

Et voilà - you have a pumpkin! Or three! Play with them as you like.

If you make these, I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mellow Mosaic Monday

It's Thanksgiving Monday. Rainy outside. Very mellow around here today. 

Yesterday we were with our children - some in person, others virtually. For a few minutes while we ate dinner we had Ashley and Owen on Skype, sitting on the high chair since grandbaby girl was napping. The hour was late for them but we were happy to see them. 

They are doing well. They looked up an English-speaking church on line, went yesterday, and met a lot of friendly people. In fact, they had a fellow Canadian and her friend over for a quasi-Thanksgiving dinner of roast chicken and stuffing, minus the cranberry sauce. 

A walk in the sunshine, scuffling through crisp brown leaves, good food and even better company - simple things for which I'm continually thankful.

Joining in with Mary at the Little Red House for Mosaic Monday.

Friday, October 07, 2011

With Thankful Heart

"I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, 
the old and the new" ~ Emerson

" ... that my heart my sing to you and not be silent
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever." Psalm 30:12

Being thankful is an attitude I try to cultivate all year round, 
not just on a specific day.

I'm thankful for so many things - for the beauty of creation, for friends near and far, some I've met, others not yet, for food to eat and clothes to wear, for health and family - the list could go on and on. 

God is good.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Some thoughts on cranberries, turkey, Thanksgiving and keeping it real

First. This morning, Maggie at Normandy Life graced her blog with a picture of her ironing - that is, her UN-ironing. She joined in with others to provide reality shots of life in Blogland. So often I we fuss over stage our photos to show life at its impossible very best.  

In untypical wild abandon I picked up my camera and shot a photo of my desk - as it is. I keep looking at that stack of papers and the basket of photos, old lists and junk important ephemera and think "I really should do something about that." But I soon sail off into something else.

For more reality shots check out Mocking Bird Hill Cottage. Oh, the sights you'll see! 

Moving on. No, I do not strew fresh cranberries about my kitchen just for effect. This is a staged photo. Just in case you wondered.

Thanksgiving is upon us. This weekend. We're Canadians, you know and like to celebrate before the blizzards descend and the geese fly south. 

Last night I made the Cranberry sauce that accompanies the turkey. It's easy, fast, and tastes so much better than the canned stuff. So. much. better.

4 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed
2 cups water

Bring to a boil in a medium large saucepan and simmer gently 20 minutes. There will be popping noises as the berries explode. Kind of unnerving if you're not prepared for it.

Add 2 cups sugar.

Simmer 5 minutes.

I poured mine into sterilized jars and sealed them so that I have more cranberry sauce to tide me over the winter. It's good with turkey, but equally good with chicken. Oh, I also added about 1 teaspoon of orange zest from an organic orange. At the end. This amount makes 4 1/2 pint jars.

And a little bit leftover. So I staged a shot with some leftover roast chicken. And then I ate it. At 9:30 am. And then, since there was more cranberry sauce than I needed with my chicken, I had a little more. Chicken. It was all very tasty.

Regarding Thanksgiving. I heard yesterday that the average caloric consumption of ONE turkey dinner is ... 3000 calories. No wonder we're all walking around in a daze and everyone wants the couch. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

A Turn in the Road

So. It's finished. The last exam. (And a particularly nasty one, at that.) An old dog can learn new tricks. I never imagined that I'd get my degree in French when I was in my 50s. Never. 

Life is full of surprises. My 20-year-old self had no idea of what life would bring. That's a good thing. I might have run far and fast had I known. 

Steps are taken one at a time. This particular path has ended. What will be next? I really don't know. After our relocation 18 months ago, things changed. 

I do know that it's going to take awhile to find a new rhythm to my days. There won't always be that "I should be studying" gremlin on my shoulder. I think I'm going to miss him for a bit - but then again, maybe not.

There's a host of creative projects I've been saving up, stacks of fabric to stitch, novels to read for sheer enjoyment, a house that could do with some deep cleaning, and perhaps, later, a job. For now, I'll take it one day at a time. Today, frankly, I'm exhausted to the point of tears - happy ones, for the most part. 

Thank you to you, my readers, who have encouraged me over these years of study. I am blessed by each one of you.  

PS. These photos were taken near Banff, a couple of weeks ago. I think the colours are stunning - the yellow leaves almost chartreuse against the turquoise water. 

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Loving White

"White . . . 

is not a mere absence of colour;

it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, 

as definite as black . . .

God paints in many colours; but He never paints so gorgeously,

I had almost said so gaudily,

as when He paints in white."

G. K. Chesterton

Do you have days when you feel pale? Not blue, as in depressed, but pale and wraith like. I'm feeling that way today. Not sad. Just sort of ... pale. Drifting through the day. Mellow, but pale.

Company's gone. Husband's busy with a project. Church in the morning, then studying, a long walk, and more studying.

Uninspired and curiously unperturbed.

Linking to Mosaic Monday hosted by Mary at the Little Red House where you are sure to find more exciting and colourful mosaics than this one!

Days at Home

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