Friday, March 30, 2012

Hello There

After our furniture was delivered on Wednesday and the pile of boxes seemed daunting, our doorbell rang. Standing there behind a huge bouquet of flowers was our "across-the-street-neighbour" welcoming us back into town. We've talked with him in the past few months, but he told me that he knew we didn't have our stuff and was waiting until it arrived to properly welcome us back. We live in a great neighbourhood. 

The flowers, now in a crystal vase, brighten up the dining room, in spite of the lingering boxes.

Here's a corner of the dining room. You'll notice the china cabinet is not in place, and the space has been usurped by pictures. The cabinet is in the garage. I'm planning to paint it and decided that if I didn't have it available for my dishes, I'd be more likely to get the job done sooner. The boxes of china are stacked in the opposite corner, waiting patiently for their time.

The first piece of furniture that the movers carried in was the dining room table. When they set it in place under the light fixture, my face broke into an involuntary grin. All of a sudden, I felt at home. So much life occurs around that table - dinners filled with laughter or tears, games, puzzles, crafts, sewing - and I'm happy to have it available once again.

Tim's birthday was Wednesday as well. He was traveling that day and didn't get home until late. I had sort of planned a semi-festive dinner, but in the end, exhausted by unpacking, I ordered in Chinese food. We're planning a family brunch on Sunday which will be much more festive.

Little Miss is here with me today, currently napping. She arrived with a brand new bonnet. Picture taking is serious business and I couldn't get her to smile for the camera. She found my Ecuadorian doll in a box and has been carrying it around the house, being very good about all the tempting dangling beads.

It's a glorious sunny day here and out in the yard spring is rising from the ground. These grape hyacinths are a surprise for me from our Traveling Adventurers. When they moved out of the basement suite last summer, Ashley planted the bulbs from her pots into my raised flower beds. I came home from Mexico and saw beautiful blue blooms from my kitchen window. Soon there will be daffodils, too. What a sweet gift, Owen and Ashley.

In the meantime, there's a bit of yellow from the dandelions - and lots of green weeds. After the house is in order (which is going to take awhile), I'll tackle the garden.

Rhubarb! My mouth is watering already. Rhubarb cake, rhubarb fool, stewed rhubarb - I can hardly wait.

The day before I left for Mexico a small parcel arrived in the mail - from Vee. She made this, and many other magnets and sent them all around. I love the little girl reaching high into the sky. Thank you, Vee.

And to close - a couple of questions. 

1.  I read my blogs via Google Reader. I have it set so that each blog has a line with the blog name and the title of the post. But lately, when I view All Items the lines are so scrunched that only the top half of the letters show - making it a little bit difficult to read. I click into the individual blogs to read the entire post, but choose which to read by the titles. Is anyone else having this problem?

2.  The other thing I noticed is that my blog address now has .ca at the end in place of .com. Which is fine, but when I read anyone else's blog, their address comes up as .ca too. Is that weird? Does it mean anything? What happens when I copy and paste it into a link? 

Whew, that was a lot to cram into one post. Now it's back to the unpacking!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Building a House in Mexico

This is not a pretty post, with arranged vignettes, elegant tablesettings, or beautiful flowers. But it's real life. 

During spring break, our church's youth group (and many others in Canada and the USA) forms a team to go to the Baja California region of Mexico to build a simple house for someone who can't afford it. In the above photo, the structure to the right, an old trailer, is where our family had been living. You'll also see the cement pad in the center, where the new house will stand.

40 of us left Victoria on a morning ferry to Vancouver where a coach bus drove us 2.5 hours to the Seattle airport. After a 3 hour flight we landed in San Diego where we spent the night. The next day we piled into 4 large vans and drove to San Quintin. 

On Monday morning the work began. The team leaders had everything well organized and soon the students (and adults) were painting, measuring, and sawing. 

The neighbourhood children loved interacting with the students. Some got right into the painting (I'm sure their mothers weren't too happy when they arrived home paint spattered.) There were songs and games, and time for a little piggy backing.

When the walls were being lifted, the woman for whom the house was being built helped to raise them. She is such a humble woman.

And what did Yours Truly do? Well, I wired the house. Yep, me. I kind of enjoyed it. The team leader is an electrical engineer and extremely patient. He told me what to do, step by step, and so I installed the metal boxes, drilled holes in the studs, ran the wire, stripped the ends and wrapped them appropriately, installed the switches, outlets and cover plates. And in the end, when the power was turned on - it worked! 

Another one of my tasks was speaking Spanish and being the go-between. I loved the opportunity to use my Spanish again. I asked Mele (the woman for whom we were building) about the things she needed in the house. She was very impassive, not showing any emotion as we discussed beds, kitchen stuff and more.

Then I asked her if she would be interested in having a small chicken coop and some chickens. Her face lit up with a huge smile and she said, "me gusta!" several times. I think that was my favorite moment of the whole trip. A little wire cage and 6 chicks were something she couldn't imagine providing for herself.  

And here is the finished house. Mele chose the colour. Two talented girls on the team painted a lovely house sign for her. It's humble, probably none of my readers would be content to live in such a home, I know that I wouldn't be, yet it's a huge improvement from Mele's previous home.

Here's a photo of the interior. The main room is both kitchen and living room, with two bedrooms in the back. It's almost like a home makeover in that we made the bedrooms up with new beds, bedding and curtains, provided some new kitchen equipment and also filled her pantry. 

Crouched on the ground is my electrical teacher, Dave, doing some last minute checking.

Each morning, before heading to the job site, the team spent a few moments journaling. This helped to focus our minds on the reason we were in Mexico - to share, in a small way, the love of Christ. I was so impressed by these students who worked hard, got along well, and did a stellar job.

One last photo, taken through a van window. What you see are fields and fields of strawberries - the ones that come to your grocery store when it's still cold and wintry. In the far distance you can see the workers. When you buy produce from Mexico, be it strawberries, green beans, lettuce, kale or tomatoes, take a moment to think of, and pray for, the workers who provide for you. They have so little compared to us, yet are people with dignity, created in God's image, just as you are. And be grateful.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mosaic Monday - Mexican Beauties

I arrived home from Mexico mid-afternoon, tired after two long days of travel. The first day we were up at 5:00 am and drove to San Diego. During the three-hour border lineup, I anticipated the hot shower I would have at the hotel. It did not disappoint.

This morning we were up at 4:00 am to catch a 6:30 am flight to Seattle, then a three hour bus trip to the ferry terminal, and after 90 minutes on the boat, I was more than pleased to walk into Tim's arms. 

I've been talking up a storm since then and doing some unpacking and laundry. But I wanted to let my readers know I'm back, and hope to fill you in on more of my trip this week. It won't be until later on because ... tomorrow I'm driving up to Parksville to move the rest of our furniture down. The movers arrive Tuesday morning. The house there will just have to be empty for potential buyers, allowing them to use their imaginations. Since it's spring break here, it's a good time for me to move. 

I'm linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted once again by Mary of the Little Red House.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Simple Spring #5: Cloudy Days

"I know that in everybody's life must come days of depression and
discouragement when all things in life seem to lose savour.
The sunniest day has its clouds; but one must not forget the
sun is there all the time."
L. M. Montgomery

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Simple Spring #4: Between Winter and Spring

"The beauty of winter is that it makes you appreciate spring."
L. M. Montgomery - The Story Girl

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Simple Spring #3: Fashion

"It is ever so much easier to be good if your clothes are fashionable."
L. M. Montgomery - Anne of Green Gables

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Simple Spring #2: Primulas

"After all," Anne had said to Marilla once, "I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string."
L. M. Montgomery - Anne of Avonlea

Monday, March 19, 2012

Simple Spring #1: Apple Blossoms

"I'm afraid to speak or move for fear that all this wonderful beauty will just vanish...
like a broken silence."
L. M. Montgomery

Friday, March 16, 2012

Capricious Spring

The weather can't decide what to do. This week we've had rain, snow, wind, cold, and a bit of sunshine. Last Sunday afternoon Tim and I headed to Witty's Lagoon for a little walk. Although the sun peeked out occasionally, its warmth was stolen away by the wind.

 Mugs of steaming tea, drunk while seated on a driftwood log, warmed our insides most satisfactorily. In the distance we watched some Canadian Navy vessels doing an exercise in the Strait - ships and helicopters went to and fro. 

Last Friday I received a call from one of our pastors - "There's been a cancellation on the Mexico trip, would you like to go?" It came out of the blue and I had to decide quickly. And so, on Saturday morning Tim will drive me to the ferry where the team (43 of us) will be sailing, then busing to Seattle, flying to San Diego and driving in vans to a town in Baja California. Some of the team will be constructing a house, some will be working on a church, and I will be using my rusty Spanish to communicate. 

I'll be gone for 9 days so if you don't hear from me, you'll know why. But I've pre-posted a series with simple spring photos accompanied with quotations from L. M. Montgomery that you might enjoy. Montgomery's characters, which include Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon, and Valancy (The Blue Castle) are spunky and likable. I've read them all over and over, not for the quality of writing but for her superb characterization. Many of her characters' expressions are ones that I can identify with, such as 

"I do know my own mind...The trouble is, my mind changes and then I have to get acquainted with it all over again."
L. M. Montgomery - Anne of the Island

Thursday, March 15, 2012

It was a very Happy Thanksgiving

I snapped this photo in October, on Canadian Thanksgiving Sunday,  a wonderful, amazing weekend. Pictured above, leading the way, (mostly hidden) are our son (DS) and daughter-in-law, parents of the Little Miss, and behind them, our eldest daughter and son-in-law (DD1).    

The preceding Friday afternoon I awaited, with hope in my heart, a Skype call from DD1. At first she looked so serious that I thought, "oh no." But then, her husband, standing behind her, put up two thumbs with a huge grin. YES! Another grandbaby is on the way. Great rejoicing ensued and thanks to God.

Just a month ago, I was invited, along with Gerry's mom, to the gender assessment ultrasound. I bought two little onesies and wrapped them up. But I only came home with one of them - the blue one. Yes, we're having a second darling granddaughter - a girl cousin for the Little Miss.  We have about 3 months more to wait - such exciting days. 

I've been teaching this week - Christian Perspectives and Home Economics. Being with teenagers is paradoxically both invigorating and tiring. I come home from school tired and happy.

Today I'm playing with the Little Miss. She's napping just now, and there's a chicken carcass simmering on the stove, filling the air with savoury goodness. Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are on the list of things to make today, and some tidying up. Hopefully the rain will desist long enough for a walk this afternoon. 

What's happening in your world today? I always love to hear.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Craving Colour

On one of my walking routes I pass by an older home set back from the street. Each year, in spring, I anticipate the burst of colour on the lawn. 

Naturalized crocuses have spread there over the years, and the result is a green lawn speckled with various shades of purple. Mossy rocks line the driveway and the bed alongside is now full of crocuses and the last of the nodding snowdrops. I saw one sunshine yellow daffodil blooming and there will be more to follow. 

Today on southern Vancouver Island the sun shines brightly but there's a strong, cold wind tempering the warmth. Still, I think we'll put on our hats and gloves, bundle into our heavy coats and brave a walk on the beach. 

How are you spending this sunny Sunday afternoon? What's bringing colour into your world?

Linking to Mosaic Monday and Sunlit Sunday.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Birds of Different Feathers

Signs of spring are popping up all over. Colours are still muted, the browns, tans and greys of winter in much evidence. Birds rustle and twitter in the dry grasses and skeleton branches of trees and the increasing light brings hope of spring and summer colour.

Frost during the night means a thin layer of ice on the pond in the morning. As the ducks waddled I could plainly hear the ice cracking beneath their feet. Reaching the edge where the ice no longer bore their weight was no problem, they switched to from waddling to paddling with no hesitation.

The Little Miss looks a bit robotic here, but she is enchanted with the ducks, running after them, calling out in high, excited gibberish, although I'm pretty sure she said "duck" a couple of times. 

All that running meant some falling, too. And it's muddy out there. She fussed about the muddy mittens so I took them off. I thought she might see better without the sunglasses, too. She's very good about wearing them, protecting her beautiful blue eyes.

A friend of the Little Miss is just a few months old and her mother likes owls. So I stitched up this owl softie for her.

Waddling and paddling birds, twittering birds, stitched birds - I think it's almost spring!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Seven Pleasures of Almost Spring

Last night the rained poured down. This morning was grizzly grey. But around 10 am or so, the wind blew away all the clouds and the sunshine poured in through the windows! It's almost spring!

If it's almost spring where you are, or not quite, here are a few ways that I like to celebrate and encourage the season:

Revel in the sight of green shoots poking up through brown dirt

Get my gardening tools in order

Hold my face up to the sunshine and feel its faint warmth

Buy a bunch of tulips or daffodils

Pay attention to the lengthening days and the clear quality of light

Play suitable music - I've been listening to Vivaldi's Spring, found on Youtube if you don't have a CD or other means of listening

Open a window wide and let the wind blow out all the winter doldrums 
(Only for a short time - it's still chilly around here)

Last week a parcel arrived from Italy. Not for me, I'm just the receiver and keeper. But our daughter had me open the box while she watched via Skype. I pulled out some of their winter clothes and then the jug pictured above, made and purchased in the town of Tropea where they spent a month. Isn't it cheerful? Alas, a plate also sent in the package didn't fare so well.

Alas, a plate also sent in the parcel didn't fare so well. But Ashley says she can use the pieces in a mosaic sometime, so I'm saving them in a basket for her. They are bright and cheery. Our travelers are now in Istanbul and having a great time. She showed me some fabrics she bought in the Grand Bazaar - for ME! 

What are you enjoying on these "almost spring" days?

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Beauty and Ugliness

Vancouver's first unofficial name was Gastown, named after very talkative "Gassy Jack" Deighton. This area of town is full of historic buildings and sites, and is being revitalized with new businesses and very tony retail establishments.

In the courtyard leading from Gaoler's Mews stood the jail, and the place where convicted criminals were hung. 

Looking into the mews from the street. I didn't go into the mews, but there is a pretty tea house there, along with the historical buildings. 

This area of Vancouver is known for its history, and is very popular with tourists. But there's a sad side as well. Many homeless people live here, those with mental illness and addictions of various kinds. They are easy to spot, perhaps not so much by their clothing, but by the hollow look on their faces and their avoidance of looking people in the eye. My heart aches for these people. 

British Columbia's entrance into the Confederation of Canada was contingent upon the railway's arrival on the west coast of Canada. The Canadian Pacific Railway was constructed across the country, unifying east and west. This was the terminus of the line, built in a neo-classical style. Today it's the centre for various types of transportation.

One last photo of Vancouver - note the tuft of wire on top of the light. At first I thought it was a growth of some weeds or something, but I soon realized that all the lights had the same tuft - to prevent seagulls from alighting and making a mess. And then, of course, off to the side, the Canadian flag, flying proudly. 

Have you ever been to Vancouver? What did you think of it?

Friday, March 02, 2012

Vancouver Views

This past week Tim had a conference in Vancouver, and I didn't have any teaching scheduled so I went along. Wednesday morning, we woke up to see snow outside our window! And this view across the water to North Vancouver. Clouds hung heavy over the North Shore, obscuring the snow-covered hills for most of the day.

Constructed for the 1986 World Exposition, Canada Place is surrounded by a busy working harbour in the heart of downtown Vancouver. The building itself juts into Burrard Inlet, evoking thoughts of a large ship with its iconic sails. It's now used as a convention centre and it's here where cruise ships dock.

Walking around the centre almost feels like walking around the deck of a cruise ship. And looking up, it's easy for that illusion to continue.

This view, from Canada Place up Howe Street, is typical of downtown Vancouver, where old and new architecture melds in a city that is always changing. Our hotel is the curved building to the right. All the snow was gone by Thursday, but the skies were still grey and a nipping wind blew off the water.

So much activity in the harbour. Float planes, passenger ferries, huge tankers, container ships, and smaller boats come and go constantly.

While Tim was in meetings all day, I ventured out on my own. On Wednesday I drove to Ikea and picked up a few things (there's no Ikea on the Island), had lunch with my cousin who works at Children's Hospital, and wandered around town a little. It was so cold that I didn't stay out very long, and instead went back to the hotel to read, and look out the window. 

Thursday's weather was a little more pleasant and I ventured out to visit a couple of shops. One was Dressew - a fabric shop with no website that takes no credit cards, but has an amazing two floors of fabric and sewing related stuff. Some of it is junk, but there are treasures to be found if one is willing to look closely. I did and I picked up 3 pieces of fabric and some notions. 

Aren't the colours in the Dominion Building, pictured above, striking? When completed in 1910, at 13 stories high, it was the tallest building in the British Dominion. Hard to believe now. It was also the first steel-framed high rise in Vancouver. The square in front of the building is Victory Square, where a cenotaph honours those who fought for Canada in the Great War, and later wars.

Tomorrow I'll have a few more photos of Vancouver, featuring the Gastown area.

Days at Home

  Last night after dinner the sunshine illuminating the bouquet of peonies prompted me to grab my camera. I love the frilly elegance of the ...