Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Eve

On our hike on Sunday, I noticed this rock lying in the middle of the path. I put it in my pocket to add to my small, but growing collection of heart-shaped rocks. 

Thank you to each of you who sent birthday greetings. Each comment is treasured and read several times.  

On this rainy October eve, Tim built our first fire of the season. It's not all that cold, but the fire makes everything cozier. We enjoyed our tea and chocolate in front of the fire, then went for a walk, suited up appropriately for the weather. 

Tomorrow is my last day in the library. After that I'll be on the TOC list (Teacher on Call) again. While I would love to have a permanent position, that's not possible just now, so I'll take the work I can get. I have enjoyed knowing that I'm going to work each morning without waiting for a phone call.

Meanwhile, I have a number of projects on the go that I'm looking forward to tackling. Some house tasks need to be attended to, some sewing, and just running errands. And perhaps I'll have a little more time for blogging!

As we watch the devastation left in Sandy's wake, we continue to think of all those affected by the storm. I think of those who lost loved ones and cannot imagine their grief. Others lost their homes and suffered severe damage. I'm so thankful that the storm is weakening and that relatively few lives were lost. 



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Looking Back

On the back of the photo, in my mother's handwriting, is "Lorrie's 9th birthday." I'm sitting behind the cake, flanked by two childhood friends, Gail Rainey on my right, tossing her hair back, and Carol Rempel on my left, wearing glasses. Rounding out the photo - my sister and brother. 

My parents always made our birthdays special. We didn't have fancy parties, but always a few friends, presents, and a dinner made with particular care. My mother baked a cake and topped it with her 7-minute frosting and candles. Birthdays were fun days to anticipate. 

One year, probably my 10th or 11th birthday, I went to school and felt shunned by my friends. They whispered among themselves, giggling as they turned away from me. I was hurt and stormed home from school in a huff, thoroughly upset. Later, not long before dinner, the doorbell rang and my mother suggested I answer it. There stood my friends, ready for a surprise party. I remember feeling a bit resentful even then, hurt by feeling left out. But it soon passed.

While living in Ecuador, away from family in a remote setting, with small children, I learned that it was just fine to make my day special in my own way. I would take some time to do what I wanted, such as to sew or read. I would save a magazine for that day, or make something special to eat. Relying on others to make my day special, without communicating what that might look like, just didn't work.  Lighting candles, opening a new bar of rose-scented soap, wearing a favourite outfit - these are the little things I do to mark my birthday.

Today is another birthday. I'll be at school and the day will pass quietly. But Tim and I will have dinner together at home, I have a selection of cards to open, a present that arrived in the mail, and the delight of future celebrations with family on the weekend. 

How about you? How do you celebrate your birthday?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Forest Minutia

After church this morning Tim and I packed up a lunch and headed for the hills. We wanted to take advantage of a day without rain. A 10-minute drive takes us to Tod Gowland Park which sprawls along the Saanich Inlet. After an hour on the trail we stopped for lunch, eating our bread, cheese, hardboiled eggs and date loaf while drinking in beautiful scenery.

Materfamilias recently posted about the fauna she encounters on her runs around her island. So I determined to notice what I might see in the way of wildlife. The count didn't begin auspiciously - my first sighting was of a dead crow, partially eaten, beside the trail. 

Then, I fished a gnat out of my tea mug. Things were not looking good in the wild creature department. I did notice seagulls, white dots against the blue water, and later, a native red squirrel dashing along a tree limb. But that was about it, although I did hear plenty of crows rasping harshly in the forest.

Misty, distant islands beckon when we turn away from the inlet to the waters between us and the mainland.  These are the waters and islands we travel through on the ferry. To me, today, they looked magical, like something from Narnia, full of mystery and adventure.

Another hour took us to Jocelyn Hill. Tim snapped a quick photo of me with my walking stick. We each have one. Tim's father made them, and when he passed away, we each asked for one. They have never been used, until today. We both found that walking with a stick gives our upper bodies a bit of a workout. And going down steep sections of the trail, I found I had better balance and could travel faster, using the pole as a brace.

Here is some of the minutia I noticed on the trail - thin, curled shreds of arbutus bark, soft and fine bright green moss, a tangle of silvery moss on the trail, and a collage of fir tree needles. Thirteen kilometres of hiking up and down makes for very tired feet. This evening, I'm happy to just sit and read blogs.

And for anyone who heard about the earthquake in our area, we are fine. No tsunami, no shaking. We were sitting on the couch at the time it happened and didn't feel a thing. And I'm thankful. Meanwhile, we are thinking of all those on the east coast in the path of Hurricane Sandy.

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

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Fill-ins

On our Thanksgiving Monday walk to Tod Inlet several weeks ago, we noticed a row of jack-o-lanterns on an old cement wall. It looks like they were lit in the evenings. 

Wouldn't that be a fun sight from a boat bobbing about in the middle of the inlet? 

Friday Fill-ins:

1.  Oh, that chocolate mousse would be lovely, yes, I'll take some.

2. It's a sure sign of  autumn  when random rows of pumpkins appear in the landscape.


3.  Are we having rain again?

4.  My heart melts when I see these two little blue-eyed cousins sitting in a doll bed made by their grandpa years ago.

5. Do you believe in dressing up? I do.

6.  I'm a fond believer in the power of naps, too.

7.  And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to  watching a movie with my husband at home, tomorrow my plans include cleaning the house and sewing, and Sunday, I want to go for a long walk.        

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Breathing Time

When I arrive home from school around 4 pm, the first thing I do is put the kettle on and make myself a mug of tea or hot chocolate. I sit and savour the drink, drawing warmth from sipping and from wrapping my hands around the mug. A little snack, like these gluten and dairy-free cookies is a nice treat, too.

I find I need a little bit of breathing time to transition into the busy-ness of making dinner and evening activities. 

We've had a fair bit of rain lately, accompanied by pelting wind.  When the sun does shine, it's for a short time and noticeable enough that students and teachers alike comment on it when coming into the library. The other day, around 4:30 pm, I noticed the long slant of shadows on my dining room wall making my plates into a mottled landscape.

Shadows of the last spikes of lavender drying in a vase cast themselves onto the wall in graceful arcs, reminding me of the pass of summer into autumn's ever-shorter days.

I admire my daughter-in-law who comes home from work every day and immediately begins caring for a hungry two-year-old. I consider myself lucky to be able to transition gradually from work to home-work.

How about you? Do you need a little breathing time between activities? How do you transition?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Making Gifts - Ideas to Sew

So here it is, the 24th of October. We are deep into autumn, and parts of the country are already shoveling snow. I want to savour each day and not rush the seasons, but I do like making gifts for Christmas. It's time to begin. Or maybe you've begun already. I have not.

The thing with making gifts is that you can't show them ahead of time, so I've gathered photos from gifts made in past years, or ideas for gifts, and showcased them here. Maybe you'll be inspired, and maybe give me some ideas of other things to stitch in the comment section.

Placemats are fun to make and a useful gift as well. This pattern is from a sew-along last October on the Sew Mama Sew blog. There are many, many wonderful tutorials on that site, and all are very well written. 

Table runners are another practical gift. This one was inspired by The Peony Teacup and is constructed using the disappearing nine-patch block. Just keep adding blocks until the runner is as long as you like, then layer, quilt and bind.

Sachets made with lavender, rose petals and herbs from your garden (or purchased) make a lovely gift for friends. These were made with linen, stamped with rubber stamps and tied simply with a ribbon. Tuck in a little sprig for a hint of what's inside.

Do a search for rag doll patterns and you'll find many. This is one I did several years ago. The link is on my side bar, and also here for Part One, and Part Two. It's a tutorial I would like to redo at some point.

Pillows or cushion covers change up the look of a room in a hurry. Use scraps to make the one above (1 1/2 inch squares) or for something different, the Je t'aime pillow on my sidebar.
There are lots of pillow tutorials on the web as well.

And for the men in your life - what about a tuxedo apron with a red bow tie (slightly askew), cummerbund, and a pin-tucked shirt front? I made up this pattern. Another tutorial I hope to write some day. I captured Tim just as he was ready to carve the turkey. 

Have you begun making gifts for Christmas? Any ideas you'd like to share? I'm feeling kind of low on creativity just now.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Last of the Flowers

On Saturday I spent a few hours dodging rain and cleaning out some of the garden beds. All of the green tomatoes are ripening indoors and the plants are in the compost bin. The carrots and beets are tucked away in the fridge, the annuals have been uprooted and the garden beds look a little bare. But I picked a hodge podge of blossoms for an arrangement in the entry hall. It's a little wild, different than my usual. I used sage and rosemary as greenery, along with a few vinca vines.

For a container, my soup tureen worked well. It's a wide opening and the flowers need some support. I've found that a criss cross of masking tape works well and is easy to discard once the arrangement is finished. 

Dahlias, like this one, continue to bloom, and I'll enjoy them until the first frost. I have better luck leaving the tubers in the ground than pulling them out for the winter. They are in a well-drained area. Putting the garden to bed is bitter sweet, but I'm looking forward to a bit of a rest once it's done. Time to focus on indoor activities.

Are the flowers still blooming out your way? Do you garden year round or do you enjoy a break for winter?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Leaves A-Whirl

Listen! the wind is rising,
and the air is wild with leaves,
we have had our summer evenings
Now for October eves!

Humbert Wolfe

 In between wind-driven rain the sun shines. There is an avenue of trees lining the approach to our local public library branch. After school on Thursday I drove there for the particular purpose of taking a few photos. The leaves tossed prettily in the wind. It won't be long before they are all dry and scuttling on the ground like evasive crabs. 

The above lines of poetry are perfect for October around here. We've had our summer, and the October nights are getting wilder with wind, rain and leaves. 

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


Friday, October 19, 2012

Steady Love

There have been flirtations through the years. A fling with a red-wallpapered dining room, a set of strawberry patterned stoneware, a green bedroom, a yellow kitchen. But I've always returned to my love of blue and white. And I don't think it's much of a secret.  All of the above were gifts given to me by different people.

The teapot, made in Vietnam and purchased at 10,000 Villages by my younger daughter, the jug holding the hydrangeas by a long-time friend, the vase by my sister-in-law. My elder daughter brought the rectangular dish back from Holland several years ago, and the oval dish in the centre just arrived in my daughter-in-law's suitcase from Spain. 

It looks like blue and white is a winning combination all over the world. What is your favourite colour? Have you flirted with others through the years?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thoughts on Hospitality

Cheryl, from Thinking about Home, has been writing a series of posts on hospitality. Today she is hosting a linky party for her readers to share hospitable tips. The subject has caused me to reflect back on my own experiences with hospitality. This post is not so much about tips, as about memories.

I have a house, an extra bed, a place at my table. You need to stay somewhere, or a meal. 

The above words sum up my view on hospitality. There are caveats, of course. Safety is one of them. 

Hospitality was first modeled to me by my parents. Sunday dinners often extended to another family invited home from church. Relatives (of which I have an astounding amount) came to stay for one, two, or more nights in our small home with just one bathroom. Visiting choir members, missionaries, friends, and others often sat around our table or slept in our beds while we bunked down elsewhere. My mother and father made it look so easy - a normal part of life.

When I first married and we set up our home, I was nervous about inviting people over. What would I say? I worried more about the flow of conversation than the cooking or cleaning. Sometimes, it took real guts for me to say, "yes, I can serve dinner to so and so." I would invite someone else for dinner as well, someone who I knew would talk a blue streak and keep the conversation going.

Then we moved to Ecuador. Opening our home was not an option. People poured through our home in a steady stream, needing beds, meals and a place to call home in a far away land. Ecuadorians, Dutch, Germans, English, Australians, Americans, Canadians and many more nationalities gathered around our table and slept in our beds. Some stayed for a meal, others for several months. 

The benefits far outweighed the inconveniences. Our children learned to converse with people from many backgrounds, young and old. We heard stories of far away lands. One Christmas a young German couple showed us how to make folded paper stars. An American visitor gave us a wonderful recipe for chocolate cake, and started us on the habit of eating popcorn, apples and cheese for Sunday night suppers. Our youngest guest was a newborn baby boy whom we brought home from the hospital and kept until his adoptive parents arrived.

The hospitality continued when we moved back to Canada. A young man from Spain, here to learn English, taught us how to make paella and Spanish tortilla. A young girl who needed a safe place, a boy who had no family in Canada, friends of friends, and so on.

For the two years we lived in Parksville where we had few guests other than family. And I found myself becoming anxious again about guests. Like any art, hospitality, when practiced, becomes easier. The less I think about myself and the more I focus on my guests, the more fun it becomes. Not that I fuss too much, rather, I try to make our guests comfortable, asking them questions about their life, thinking about what they would like. Most people are happy to talk about their home. 

Problems have been few. Sometimes, when the stay is longer, a few rules need to be enforced. But we have experienced nothing but respect from those we've hosted. 

Hospitality is one of the things Jesus encouraged. I've been reluctant at times, and resentful sometimes, of all the work. But more than that, I'm thankful to my parents for showing me how to be hospitable, and I know that we have been so blessed by all the people we've come to know. I wanted our home to be a place where people are restored and rested, a haven, but also a place from which to go out and face life's challenges.

Visit Thinking About Home for more posts on hospitality.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cozy Beverages - Note Card Party

One thing I look forward to in autumn is drinking more hot beverages. I love to wrap my hands around a mug of hot tea - it warms me from the inside and the outside. Here I'm drinking lemon verbena tea.

 Mint tea is a favourite year round, although it's more of a sunny day tea to me.

Tea with honey and lemon is perfect for a scratchy throat, as I had back in 2010 when this photo first appeared on the blog.

Evening or morning, a cup of hot chocolate is a treat. Filling, too, to take me through the day. I make my own mix, without any preservatives or chemical ingredients. 

A friend gave me this recipe a long time ago and I try to keep it on hand. It's not too sweet. And without further ado...

Hot Chocolate Mix Recipe

4 cups powdered milk (I like to whirl it in the blender for a finer texture)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (like what you use for baking)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups icing sugar (powdered sugar for those of you in the US)
1/2 tsp salt

That's it. Mix it all up, put it into a pretty container and use about 2 1/2 heaping tablespoons per cup of boiling water.  

Linking to Vee's Note Card Party. Thanks, Vee! It's always fun!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Under the rain

Autumn roses droop under the weight of October raindrops. Yet, along with Robert Frost, I think "these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be..."  They fairly force coziness indoors.

Have a cozy day, wherever you are!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Rain

Driving home each day I pass this maple tree. Vibrant colour glows, even on a grey day. The carpet of leaves underfoot grows thicker each day, in proportion to the growing visibility of the tree's skeleton. I know I need to be quick if I want any pictures. 

So today, in spite of a constant drizzle, we set out for our walk, camera in hand. Correction: camera in protective case. I snapped photos, admiring the pinkish red of the leaves, paler than I remember from other years, but still so beautiful. More reds along the bog pathway: bog cranberries and blackberry leaves.

As Faith Baldwin says, "Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees." 

In spite of the soggy weather, the trees did burn with colour. As we walked we could almost hear the slurping as trees, grass and ground drank in the much-needed water. 

Perhaps no one is happier for this wet weather than the ducks. The long dry spell left them without a pond to swim in. After a couple of days of rain, the bog pools are filling up. Ducks quack and paddle, utterly content in the rain.

As for us, we arrived home wet, to the savoury scent of roast chicken. Roasted sweet potatoes, sauteed tomatoes, and a gratin with the last of the garden zucchini made for a fine meal. Dessert was apple crisp with custard sauce. Ah, autumn food!

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

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Good Morning for a Candle

I awoke in the night to hear the drip, drip, drip of rain on the roof. Our dry spell is over. The sunshine is hiding behind thick clouds. Autumn is here. It would be a good day to build a fire in the fireplace and cozy up with a book or some hand sewing. Ah, if only.

I taught French 3 days this past week, and beginning on Monday, I have at least a 2-week stint in the library. Today's my day to go downtown for a few things I need. Stopping at the grocery store after work or on the weekend is no problem, but I like to have a bigger chunk of time to brave the one-way streets, pedestrians and militant parking enforcers in the city center.


I've been the winner of several giveaways recently. This Sweet Charlotte pattern came from a giveaway on Jessica's blog, Running with Scissors, where she blogs about the things she's made. She is developing a line of her own sewing patterns and uses her own cute children as models. I am so impressed by all the young pattern designers I see out there, providing alternatives to the big pattern companies. I'm looking forward to making this vest for the Little Misses.

Jennifer Paganelli designs bright, happy fabrics and projects to go along with them. I love her bold use of colour and was thrilled to be selected to receive 6 yards of fabric from her new line Happy Land, along with her latest book featuring 21 sewing projects.

Both the Sweet Charlotte pattern and the Jennifer Paganelli fabrics have arrived at a good time. I'm bursting with ideas of things to sew. And of course, Christmas is coming! I love making gifts, do you?

So, before I can get to the sewing, I have a house to tidy up, laundry to do, and some errands to run. This evening we have Little Miss A coming for the night again. What's on your list today?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Foggy Morning Tea

A couple of posts ago I mentioned harvesting the lemon verbena. Someone asked what I intended to do with it. Elizabeth from Cornish Cream, formerly French Village Life, mentioned that the scent lasts a long time and she uses it for potpourri. 

For me, the scent brings back memories of Ecuador, where lemon verbena, or cedron, as it's known there, is used as a tisana, or herbal tea.

Whatever it's called, I put a few leaves in a tea pot, pour boiling water over, let it steep and pour myself a steaming cup of lemony goodness. Perfect for a foggy morning such as today.

What's your morning beverage of choice? 

Monday, October 08, 2012

Thanksgiving Monday

After a day of feasting, laughter and time with family, the house is returned pretty much to normal. The guest room is ready for the next visitors, Little Miss A spent the morning with us and then went to her other grandparents for the week. 

Once things were sorted out around here, Tim and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and drove down to Tod Inlet park.

We've had no rain for almost 3 months and the woods are dry as can be. All the summer warmth that has soaked into the earth rises now and fills the air with dancing motes of dust.

Along the inlet water shimmers, framed by golden trees.

The cement piles from long ago docks stand as perches for gulls and other birds. 

Although everyone is enjoying this unseasonably long stretch of dry and sunny weather, we really do need rain. Levels in the rivers are so low that unless generous rain falls soon the salmon will be unable to return upstream to spawn. They wait downstream, easy prey for eagles, seals, and other predators. 

Is the weather unusually wet, dry, warm or cool where you live?


Sunday, October 07, 2012

Dinner with Family

 I love setting a pretty table. For Thanksgiving Dinner this year, I'm using the table-runner I made a few weeks ago, and the fabric apples (click for the link to the tutorial) as place card holders.

The centerpiece looks nice, but is usually removed when we serve the main course to make room for the platters of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, vegetables and cranberry sauce. I also like using the linen dinner napkins that were a wedding gift to my in-laws more than 50 years ago. How many dinners have they witnessed?

Little Miss A sits in a high chair and would likely try to eat this fabric apple. Little Miss S will lie on a blanket in view of us all. But I couldn't resist adding their names to our table as well. We will miss our son and daughter-in-law, vacationing in Europe.

 Happy Thanksgiving!

 Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Mary of the Little Red House., which will be up around 6:00 pm Pacific time.

Friday, October 05, 2012


Several years ago, when our lives were rather topsy-turvy, I took a walk along the beach on an October afternoon, filled my pocket with smooth rocks, came home and decoupaged words on each one. Words that represented the things I was thankful for, such as family, faith, laughter, colour, beauty, etc. Thankfulness did not come easy that year. Since then, life has stabilized but each Thanksgiving, I fill a wooden leaf bowl with those rocks that represent so much for which I'm thankful. This year, I added our latest blessing - a little blue-eyed, dark-haired girlie for whom we've waited a long time.  

To me, thankfulness is an exchange between two people, a giver and a receiver. When I think of all the wonderful things I have received, I give thanks to a loving God who provides me with so many good things, and in the hard times that come to all of us, with strength to persevere.

Canadian Thanksgiving is this weekend. This morning I made pastry, cranberry sauce and a cranberry tart. I'm working ahead as much as possible because Little Miss A is spending the weekend here with us. So much fun. So much energy. 

I'm thankful for all of you who read this blog. You are my friends. Your comments and emails mean so much to me. I'm glad that we can be friends through this medium. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

What shall we call this season?

This afternoon I cut the last of the lavender. At least, I think it will be the last. New buds and flowers continue to form. I cut the lemon verbena, stripped the leaves off the stems and placed them in a dish to dry. My hands smell of lemon and sunshine.

I want to read autumn poetry. Stanzas describing wind and rain and chill seem so inappropriate as our summer loiters on. I read a few lines and put the poem away for a time when the weather fits the words.

This stanza from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's The Autumn, is as close as I can come to finding something describing this early October.

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them --
The summer flowers depart --
Sit still -- as all transform'd to stone,
Except your musing heart.

The summer sun is growing fainter and the flowers departing, but ever so slowly. Only in the evenings and early mornings does it feel like autumn. It's as if we are caught in a lovely limbo of sunshine and warmth. 

Tomorrow I'll be grocery shopping for our weekend of Thanksgiving feasting. We'll have our turkey on Sunday as per the tradition in my home. That leaves Monday gloriously free to relax and enjoy before work begins again on Tuesday. 

What are your plans for the coming weekend?

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-...