Sunday, January 29, 2012

Snowdrops


"The snow-drop who, in habit white and plain,
Comes on, the herald of fair Flora's train."

Charles Churchill (1732-1764)

My garden suffered some neglect during the two years we lived a little ways north. I'm eager to get it back into shape, but will have to wait a wee bit longer for the rain to lessen. Until then, I wander around, poking around, seeing what's survived. Seeing these nodding snowdrops yesterday made me so happy. And in another spot, the very first tips of daffodils are emerging from the ground.

I'm linking this post to Mosaic Monday, hosted by the ever-gracious Mary at the Little Red House.

And on a different topic, Mater of Mater Familias Knits, tagged me in a meme. I don't participate often, but this one sounds fun. It's also long, so I'm taking extreme liberty with the rules and breaking it into two posts. Today, I'll post 11 random things about myself, and tomorrow I'll post the rules and answer Mater's questions.

1.  I'm the eldest of three children.

2.  My sister and brother insist that the only memories they have of me as a child is with my nose in a book. They exaggerate, but I have always devoured books.

3.  Although our family was small, I have 17 pairs of aunts and uncles, and 56 first cousins. Both of my grandfathers fled Russia during the post-WWI revolution because of persecution against the Mennonites. My grandmothers' families had come to Canada earlier and were also of Mennonite heritage. I loved growing up as part of a huge extended family.

4.  My favourite colour is blue, but I probably look better in pink tones. 

5.  I was married at 20, got my first degree at 22, and at age 24 my husband and I moved to Ecuador, South America to work with a Christian non-profit organization. We went for four years and ended up staying for almost 21 years.

6.  Our three children were born in a small hospital on the edge of the Amazon jungle. When I went into the hospital with the first, I noticed a cockroach in the corner of the bathroom and wondered how I could ever give birth in a building that housed cockroaches. After a few hours of labour, I wouldn't have cared if a tribe of cockroaches broke into song and serenaded me with "La Cucaracha." 

7.  We returned to Canada in 2002, settling on our Island because my husband found work here. It's a great place to live.

8.  I'll take salty and crunchy over sweet and mushy any day. 

9.  Dark chocolate is the exception to the above, especially if sprinkled with a little sea salt.

10.  I obtained my second degree (a BA in French) at 54, just last fall. I love languages, and speak Spanish as well as French and English.

11. Creativity is in my blood. Making things with my hands, by sewing, painting, stitching, cooking or decorating is something I have to do. 


Thursday, January 26, 2012

This Little Light


"Let me show you what I made." Last weekend, via Skype, our daughter in Italy showed us her version of a clementine candle. I thought it wonderful and later that day set about making one for myself. I followed her verbal instructions and came up with this adorable little candle, which I set into a glass dish and placed on the dinner table. It burned all evening, a friendly, non-toxic glow. 


I thought you might be interested in making one, too. So I googled the idea and came up with this link to an Apartment Therapy Clementine Candle tutorial. A clementine (or mandarin orange) plus olive oil is all that is needed. So simple. 


I'm stymied these days, unable to think of anything blog worthy to post. I'm really looking forward to moving upstairs into my home. That will happen early next week. (We've been in the basement suite for the past month, which is nice enough, but I want to unpack my stuff.) A lot of our possessions will still be in our house up island, hopefully making it look attractive to prospective buyers. 


Two days this week were Nana days with our sweet little miss. She's chatty as can be although we're all hard-pressed to tell what she's saying. Full of giggles, inquisitive fingers, and a mind that observers can practically see working to figure out her world. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wild Weather Week


Our weather this week has changed from sunny, but cold, to cold plus snow, to warmer and rain with fierce winds. Today was no day for picture taking so this mosaic is from the sunny but cold day last Sunday. The Westsong Walkway begins in Victoria's Inner Harbour at Songhees Point and continues along the water to West Bay, curving around small bays and jutting rocky points. 

The wind today made for an interesting experience in church this morning. Our pastor was speaking about technology and about how easy it is to connect via the internet, Skype, texting, or whatever, and suggested that every once in awhile we just need to take time to disconnect from technology and connect with people face to face. At that very moment, the lights, power, sound went out - no electricity. It was a total disconnect from technology that made me wonder if he had planned it! 

So we went out for coffee with friends and connected face to face. 

Connecting (or linking) to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Mary at the Little Red House.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Bookish Sort of Day


Grade 6. George Hilliard Elementary School. The library was my favourite place in the school. I read constantly. And re-read stories that appealed to me. One was Time At the Top, a book whose title I could never remember but located by its yellow hardback cover on the "O" shelf. (Note: I just looked it up on Google and discovered that it's by Edward Ormondroyd and was indeed published in a yellow hardback in 1963. And that it was made into a movie for television in 1999.)


But I digress.  


On this particular day, our class is in the library, helping the librarian straighten bookshelves.  Our teacher is elsewhere. Each student is assigned a section of books to straighten. Each book is to be pulled out to the edge of the shelf and lined up neatly with the others. All goes well until one of my classmates pokes her fingers at the books I'd already aligned. I redo them. Again. And again. Completely frustrated, I use both of my hands to shove all of her books back against the shelf. Rather violently.


At this moment, the librarian turns and looks at me. In shock (for I was one of those annoyingly good students who rarely, if ever, got into trouble), she scolds me and sends me back to the classroom in shame. I am so embarrassed that I pick up my things from the empty classroom and walk home, unwilling to face my teacher or my classmates. 


I haven't thought of that day for many years, but yesterday, I filled in for the librarian at school. As I straightened shelves I remembered that sunny day so long ago. And I still felt, from a distance, the embarrassment and the injustice. Funny how memory works, isn't it? 


The books at the top are on my shelf at home, arranged at random, not aligned.



The Poires Au Vin (Pears in Wine) that I made the other day were so good. And easy. I found the recipe on Sharon's site, My French Country Home. Here's a link to the recipe. I used D'Anjou pears, just three, and added about 1/3 cup of sugar to the wine. 



Also, since I had no homemade marmalade to use in the recipe, I used Bonne Maman's. The label is so pretty. The pears were delicious, sitting in a pool of concentrated syrup and drizzled with a spoonful of salted caramel chocolate sauce (which I did not make).


Today I'm at home. Laundry, bread-making, cleaning. Hoping the freezing rain passes us by. What's on your plate for today?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A REAL Snow Day


Yesterday's snow was nothing compared to today's. We woke up to a drift outside the door and snow still falling steadily. The world was transformed by white snowflakes.



The cheers of school children resounded throughout the region as schools were pronounced closed for the day. Many people chose to stay home and work via computer, or just enjoy the day off. In the afternoon, the snow ceased falling and I went out for a walk with my camera. 


On a bench, this little snowman bears witness to someone's playful spirit.



"And still the snow falls in delicate stars
Covers the wide earth gently"

I read the above lines on a German blog (translated into English) last winter and copied them down because I like the imagery. They were credited to F. Stocklin, but I could find no information on such a poet. If anyone knows more about her/him, I'd love to find out.


This photo is taken with a special effect on my camera - it's supposed to look like a painting. 


I spent a quiet day - sewing, reading, talking via Skype to one daughter in Italy and the other just a few miles away (also home because of the snow), making butternut squash soup and poached pears. This evening Tim and I took another walk in the snow, in the dark. How quiet the streets are. How muffled the noise. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Snow Day


Snow has been falling in fits and starts around here for the past couple of days. We haven't seen much, sad to say. Winters here are so very mild that I'm happy to see a couple of weeks of snow. It never lasts long. This is the sum total of our snow. Not much.



But in other areas close by the accumulation is much heavier. In fact, I was called in to teach today because one teacher was stranded at home by the snow. I loved being back at school. I taught four lovely classes in the Home Ec room. The students did a great job and good smells wafted throughout that particular wing of the school. 


Now I'm home again, with tired feet and a happy heart. Time for a cup of tea before starting dinner. And can I wish for more snow?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Little Pink


The temperatures around here are the coldest they've been this winter - hovering around freezing. Some areas have had snow. Last night I went outside and a few flakes twirled lazily to the ground. But that was all. I'm still hoping for a snowfall this week.


I bought a bunch of tulips this week. They were just tight buds but have quickly opened in the warmth of the house. I love the way they anticipate spring. I try to stick with seasonal flowers from the yard, but at this time of year nothing's blooming. I took them outside to photograph them and love the way the shadows fall across them. 


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





Friday, January 13, 2012

Doodling


I signed up for Teresa McFayden's Letter Whimsy e-course. I've been practicing making block letters, with shadowing. And colouring them in. Such fun. And taking photos makes me see all the places I went out of the lines and where my lines are wonky. Oh dear. But still fun.


I've also been watching the videos on Strathmore Artist Papers' site. They have free workshops, the one currently on features Traci Bautista as the instructor. The course, called Doodles Unleashed, is all about having fun with paint, markers, pens, ink and whatever. I haven't done very much with what I've watched, but again, it's a lot of fun, and it inspired the flower in my practice lettering journal above.


Every day IS a gift. I need to remember that.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Quiet Days


"And Winter slumbering 
In the open air
Wears on his face
A dream of spring."

Samuel Taylor Coleridge




January begins with festivities and frolic that soon turn into quiet days of routine. While Nature slumbers, readying herself for great expressions of energy in spring, my own thoughts turn inward. There's a sense of blankness, not uncomfortable, that leaves me free to ponder plans and projects, goals and challenges. Nothing concrete has emerged from my tangle of thoughts, but in time, it will. 



Husband: What are you knitting?

me: I don't know.

Husband: You don't know? What kind of knitting is that?

me: Well, I found this ball of yarn in Ashley's stuff and decided to start knitting. I just want to knit.

Husband: You don't want to make anything?

me: Yes, but we'll see what this turns out to be. If there's enough yarn, it will be a cowl scarf. If not, maybe a pillow top. I don't really care. I just feel like knitting. 

Husband: Oh.

I am very much a beginning knitter. And I have not knit for at least a year. But I grabbed a ball of wool from a box, found a set of needles, cast on a few stitches and started knitting. As I knit I can feel myself relax and unwind - not that I'm riled up about anything, but the rhythmic click of needles and hand motions soothes any cares away and fills the need for me to do something with my hands. Knitting goes along very well with tea drinking, this time chamomile.

I'll let you know what this knitting turns into. 

What projects are you working on these days? Do you have any plans for 2012 - not resolutions, per se, but hopes and dreams? Will you share them? Reading the goals of others helps stimulate the formation of my own, something I've found helpful in reading other blogs.






Sunday, January 08, 2012

Shades of Blue


Living as we are, in temporary digs, with much less than 1/2 of our "stuff," household chores take very little time. My husband has no shop in which to putter, my hobbies, other than my sewing machine are packed in boxes, and life is very simple. 

So we take a lot of walks, good on several levels. Exercise is one benefit and we're walking off the Christmas cookies and chocolates we've indulged in. Another benefit is spending time together. We walk, we talk, we enjoy each other's company. A third benefit is that of reacquainting ourselves with this town we've grown to love. We're enjoying this month of quiet before we can move back upstairs into our home and the settling in will begin in earnest.

Although the days have been gray and often dismally wet, a hint of lightness in the sky this afternoon had Tim suggesting a walk along the breakwater. Here is where cruise ships dock, sea planes land, and other sea craft enter the protected harbour. The breakwater points a long finger out into the strait. Across the water we can see the Olympic Mountains of our US neighbours. The ferry boat in the top photo is the Coho, plying the waters between Victoria and Port Angeles. 

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

Friday, January 06, 2012

Italian Red Onion Soup


The next best thing to traveling is reading about it. Since our traveling adventurers are currently in the south of Italy, I found a few books in the library to help me picture their life there. One of them is My Calabria, by Rosetta Constantino. Part memoir part cookbook, Rosetta chronicles her family's roots through the recipes her grandmother cooked.

Sharon, at My French Country Home recently wrote a post on French Onion Soup. Inspired by her post and by the recipe for Zuppa de Cipolla alla Casa Janca in Rosetta's book, I made Red Onion Soup for lunch today. The recipe's on my food blog, here. But just let me tell you, it's mellow, sweet, comforting, and perfect for a rainy (or snowy) January day.

On another note--



Have you ever wondered what other people REALLY think of your blog? Hopefully they like it, because really, with all the blogs out there, who would read one she didn't like, or even take the time to comment negatively? It's all about choice. But maybe there's something your readers REALLY like and something they overlook because the rest of your blog is so great.

Heather, over at Inspire Me Heather, has come up with a brilliant idea. She has a linky party going on throughout the month of January where she will assign you two blogs to critique, anonymously, and two bloggers will critique your blog. So go on over, sign up and find out what people really like about your blog! 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Walk to Tod Inlet


Monday was a holiday here so Tim and I puttered in the morning. Although rain was predicted we drove to the Tod Gowlland Park for a short hike. Tod Inlet is a quiet place, full of peace and beauty. Well, other than for one mean dog that was off leash (against regulations), wouldn't listen to his owner, and came so close to me, growling menacingly, that Tim got between us until the owner finally came and dragged the dog away. 




Tod Inlet is directly behind the world famous Butchart Gardens, and was once the property of the Butchart family. From this inlet Portland Cement from the family's factory was shipped out. These pilings, perches now for gulls and cormorants, are all that's left of the docks. 



There are a few foundations on the grounds, mute witness to the people who once lived here and worked making Portland Cement.




Overlooking the water, sipping tea (in new stainless steel mugs that I got for Christmas for just these occasions), 



and nibbling on a square or two of dark chocolate - such delights. Those blue pads on the bench are one of my husband's brilliant ideas. They are cut from old sleeping mats. He keeps them in his backpack and they provide great protection from cold, wet, and/or hard places to sit. Just a little thing that makes life a teensy bit more luxurious.

Rediscovering these haunts of ours is a real delight - we've been away for two years, yet we are slipping back into life here quite easily.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Sewing Projects for Christmas


I really enjoyed making some Christmas gifts this year. I was able to use up some of my fabric stash in the process, although I did end up buying the occasional piece to coordinate. The above set of placemats and napkins are now my eldest daughter's - they match her dishes. I did these along with the Holiday Sew-Along at Sew Mama Sew.



For a friend I stitched this table runner in greens and browns. I made a similar runner for my daughter-in-law, using lighter colors but many of the same fabrics. This was not a pattern I found anywhere, but somewhere, sometime, I had read about putting together a nine-patch block (9 patches each 5 inches square), then cutting the block in quarters and re-piecing it. I had fun figuring out how to put the squares back together.


For my mom I made these placemats - which are reversible. The other side is pink and white alternating petals. The top and bottom are finished separately, then the two are blanket stitched together with batting in between. The pattern came from a quilting magazine, which I would reference properly, but it's in a box somewhere.



And for someone sweet I made these stuffed toys. The pig is from Martha Stewart, the bunny from Chez Beeper Bebe, and the ball from my own pattern. 

Now I'm thinking about the sewing I want to do this year. Some new clothes, definitely, and there will likely be house projects as well. And I'd like to continue to work at depleting my stash, so more quilty things are likely to be in the works. That's just the sewing ideas - then there's journaling and artwork - lots of things are mulling about my mind although nothing seems to be gelling yet.

What creative endeavours have you thought about for 2012?

Monday, January 02, 2012

A Good Start



Six adults sat around our small table for Sunday lunch. Grandbaby had her high chair. We've more or less settled into our temporary digs and it feels quite cozy. Almost like being in the apartments we lived in as married students at college so long ago. Baked ham, Twice-baked potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower gratin and a coleslaw made for a good meal. A plate of Christmas baking rounded out the menu.






Mid-afternoon we went for a walk. We're enjoying a very mild winter so far and walking is very pleasant.



By the time we headed home the light was fading fast. The days might be lengthening, but progress is imperceptible. 

It was a good start to a New Year. Family gathered together, good food, the enjoyment of nature. 

Our travelers are now in Italy and were invited to an Italian home for New Year's Eve. They say one of the great wonders of Italy, alongside the Coliseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, is the amount of food and wine Italians can put away. It was a fantastic experience for them.

Circling Spring Break

Some of the names and geography of the west coast of Canada can be confusing. For example, we live on Vancouver Island, but the City of...