Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sunny Skies and Happy Birthday to Me

Our walk on Sunday afternoon took us to the Songhee's Walkway, which winds along the shoreline of Victoria's Harbour. The light slanted low and brilliant across the water, refracting, reflecting, illuminating everything in late October gold. It was as if Summer gave a long glance backward, unwilling to leave the party. Cool air and coloured leaves signified Autumn's presence, but Summer dominated.

I didn't mean to be mysterious in my last post - Tim has a conference to attend in Vancouver this week, so I took the opportunity to tag along. We're staying with our daughter and son-in-law, very near Stanley Park and English Bay, so I'm hoping for a long walk along the Seawall. This morning, my birthday, I lay in bed while Ashley cooked a lovely, lovely breakfast - a Apple-Leek-Spinach-Blue Cheese Quiche with an Onion Confit. And a bit of bacon on the side, along with fresh fruit and tea. So luxurious.

Blogging has been a bit slow, but I hope to get back to reading and commenting - I'm missing reading what you've all been up to. Thank you for all the birthday greetings on my last post.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

White Flowers

My husband surprised me yesterday with a bouquet of flowers. An early birthday gift, as it were. 

"We won't be here for your birthday, so I thought I'd give you some today."

Sweet man. Roses, gerbera daisies and alstroemeria with lots of green salal. So very fresh and pretty. I broke the bouquet apart. Now there's a vase on the coffee table, two on the mantel, and one in the bedroom. I do love flowers, don't you?

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

Friday, October 25, 2013

Garden Walk and a Winner

It's lovely to visit with someone while walking through a garden, don't you think? Today, a friend invited me to stroll through Finnerty Gardens, on the grounds of the University of Victoria. It's known for its rhododendrons, which were, of course, not in bloom today. But there was lovely color to enjoy. A well-planned garden like this one leads the eye from the foreground to the distance with varying foliage and color. A feast for the eyes.

The sun appeared now and again during our walk, and as we were leaving, rays of light caught this tree with golden effect. 

 When you enter giveaways, don't you hate being the first one to comment? Number One so rarely gets chosen, it seems. Well, this time, Mrs. Random Generator came up with 1, numero uno, un, one! And the winner of the gift bags is Jen of Muddy Boot Dreams. Congratulations! I'll get your parcel in the mail early next week.  (If you don't know Jen's blog, please take a look - she takes the most wonderful photos and writes beautifully.)

Tomorrow I'm planning to make applesauce and plant my tulip bulbs. Maybe do a little sewing. Anything special happening with you?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Color in my World

Although I'm not a lover of yellow and orange, autumn brings out a latent admiration for these shades that glow as the earth tilts away from the light. While out walking, I find myself bending down to pick up a perfect leaf, a small cone, or a twig whose form has caught my eye. Tossing them onto the silver tray that holds silk, paper, and real pumpkins creates an arrangement that pleases me.

Teaching calls have been a little scanty lately. Instead, I spend afternoons stitching, while sitting on the couch in a puddle of sunshine. I hope to add these needle books to my Etsy shop soon.

As my garden winds down, it becomes more difficult to find things to make a bouquet. Here, a couple of dahlias and a few lavender sprigs that bloomed unexpectedly for a third time are filled out with lemon balm and variegated sage. Beyond the window, the yard echos autumn shades.

What's coloring your world today?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October Gave a Party

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)

Maybe not great poetry, but lively and fun, and oh, so apt for my walk today. The late afternoon slant of the sun, the blue sky and crisp air signal the very best of autumn days. The leaves whirl off the trees, falling, twirling, and landing in great heaps on the ground. Have you noticed the way the leaves chase cars? The wind blown up by the passing vehicles stirs the leaves and carries them, skittering along until they run out of wind and give up pursuit.

And I'm curious - the photo above is of a Garry Oak leaf. Not red at all. Do you see red-leaved autumn oaks in your corner of the world? 

A bit of incongruous color - cyclamens blooming merrily in Easter shades of pink and purple amongst fall leaves.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Weekend Away

Years ago, I dabbled in watercolor painting. I never took a class, learning instead from books. Taking a course has been something I've always wanted to do. This weekend, that desire was fulfilled.

I always keep a journal. Often, when we travel, I long to be able to do a quick sketch in my journal. When I read Materfamilias' post about the class she took, Keeping an Illustrated Journal, I put the class on my "list of things to do one day." 

This past weekend, I drove up to Nanaimo, boarded a ferry for Protection Island and spent two fun and challenging days of learning how to mix colors to get just the right shade, how to draw something quickly, to draw out the essentials of a scene and to apply color to sketches.

Four of us sat a table and at one point, discussed why we were taking the class. Each one expressed excitement at learning something new, but also a measure of guilt for doing something "just for me." Why is that, do you think?

Another delight was meeting Frances (and her husband Paul) of Materfamilias, who kindly offered to host me in her cozy guest cottage. 

Keeping an Illustrated Journal is taught by Alison Watt, who shares her knowledge in wonderfully encouraging style. The above sketch is a detail of the Pont du Gard, from a photo taken in 2007.

That day, Tim and I rented a motor scooter in Avignon and zoomed through the French countryside to the historic bridge. It was a hot day and we changed into our swim suits behind some bushes, then swam in the water below the bridge. I imagined the Roman soldiers who built the bridge might have done just the same thing 2000 years ago. On the return trip we decided to meander along smaller roads. The scents of Provence are what I remember, olive trees, lavender, the earth itself, all wafting on the wind. Tim and I talk of that day as the highlight of our trip. 

Memories like these are what photos and sketches evoke.

Have you ever thought of, or have taken a course of some kind, "just for you?"  

PS Don't forget to enter my little giveaway, here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Three Things

First: A Giveaway - There's a new Etsy shop in down. Dapple Design. I happen to know the owner quite well. Cristal has tons of ideas, but is so wonderfully methodical about this venture - calculating materials and costs with a real business sense. Her first offerings include reusable gift bags and tags. She also started a blog, and you might recognize one of my Little Misses there.

For the giveaway, I'd like you to visit Dapple Design on Etsy and tell me which bag you like best. I'd also like to know how many readers would use eco-friendly cloth gift bags. The giveaway includes a wine bag, a medium bag, and a large bag, as seen above. Each has ribbon ties sewn into the seam. (Oct 25 - giveaway is now closed)

Second: Downton Abbey fans might recognize the above drawing room. It's in Highclere Castle, the real life setting of the BBC drama. And now, Lady Carnarvon has a blog! And Highclere Castle has a Facebook page. The blog is fairly recent, but I loved the post about setting the table for dinner parties. The white gloves are for a reason! (photo from the blog)

Third: I hope you find some time this weekend to toss a few leaves in the air and enjoy the exuberance of autumn, as Little Miss A did last November. 

But don't forget to enter the giveaway. Visit Dapple Design Shop. Comment. That's it. I'll draw a name towards the end of next week, and I'll ship anywhere. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

On Daydreaming

 Neil Gaiman gave a lecture on "Why our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming" which was edited and published in the Guardian. I loved it. Books and daydreaming have always played a big part in my life.

I'm also practicing with photo editing using textures. These are my first efforts. I'm not too pleased with the way they look when the photos are enlarged, so I'll go back to the drawing board. Little is more, I think.

Back to the subject of books. I usually have a couple of them on the go. Novels I tend to devour quickly because I get caught up in the story line. Non-fiction I take more slowly. I want to remember, to think about what I've read. Non-fiction is usually less addictive than stories, although not always. 

In his lecture, Gaiman asked his listeners to look around them. I did and didn't see anything unusual - a few dishes to wash, a window with grandbaby fingerprints, a pile of tea towels to put away. Then he said that everything around us was something someone imagined. I've been mulling that over. Walls, windows, heat, tables, chairs, dishes - everything was imagined before it was made. What a powerful tool the mind can be. For me, this thought puts value on daydreaming and taking time to think, activities that are highly undervalued in our produce now, publish now world.

Years ago, I remember going into my husband's office in Quito. He was the administrator of a very busy hospital. Meetings, phone calls, emails occupied his time. Yet there he was, sitting in his chair, staring out the window. I asked him what was wrong. "Nothing," he said. "I'm thinking." 

Wouldn't it be great if we all took a few minutes each day to really think? We might do some things differently if we really thought about the implications of our actions and words, both short term and long term. Wouldn't it be great if our leaders, be they civic, political, religious, or employers, did the same?

I'd love to know what you think. Do you daydream or imagine? 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Vee's Note Card Party: October

 Do the months seem to be marching by more quickly than ever? Here it is October already - and time for Vee's Note Card Party. 
Monday, Canadian Thanksgiving Day, followed two days of turkey dinner and getting together with family. It was all wonderful. Our plan to put the Little Misses to bed before eating dinner went off without a hitch. We laughed ourselves silly around the table and lingered long in the living room, slouching on couches, stretching out on the floor, talking, talking, talking. 

I took a walk in the afternoon, by Rithet's Bog. Ducks swam slowly in the late afternoon sun, and leaves glowed red and yellow. Soon the branches will be bare.

Reflections of grasses in the water are barely disturbed by placid ducks. Such a glorious afternoon. 

This photo was taken three years ago, in Port Alberni, with my old camera. I've always loved the weathered blue bench that contrasts with the carpet of yellow and brown leaves. 

Please join the party. Visit Vee's blog to see more collections of photos that we think would make great note cards. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

The turkey is roasting in the oven. For now, the house is quiet. But in an hour or so, it will be filled with the sounds of people talking and laughing, and the chatter of little girls. The table is set with a warmly colored runner, red napkins and a few fall leaves. Candles, of course. The Give Thanks tag was on the centerpiece of yesterday's Thanksgiving dinner, hosted by our eldest daughter and her husband for the "other side" of the family. Unfortunately, some of their number were ill and unable to attend, so we were invited to help swell the numbers. I don't mind two turkey dinners on Thanksgiving weekend!

Little Miss A spied these two mini-pumpkins at my house the other day. "Please, Nana," she said, "can I hold one?" She carried it carefully around the house and said in the most heartfelt tone, "Thank you, Nana, for sharing your pumpkins with me." Then, later, "they are SO cute." When Little Miss S showed up, she needed a pumpkin, too. Such cute little pumpkins themselves, they are.

We're doing things a little bit differently this year. Soup and salad will be served beforehand, but not at the table. We'll feed the little girls and eat Asian Summer Rolls while we do so, and sip Garlic Leek Soup from cups. Then, after the little ones are in bed, and hopefully asleep, we'll sit down and enjoy the rest of the meal. The parents are looking forward to a meal of adult conversation and relative quiet. We'll see how that turns out.

I know that only Canada celebrates Thanksgiving this particular weekend, and that much of the world doesn't have a particular day to give thanks. It should be a regular part of life, anyway. Today I express my thanks to you, my readers, for the friendships you offer, the comments you make, the lessons you teach, and the inspiration you are to me.

Linking with Mary for Mosaic Monday

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Personal Photo Challenge: Food

Donna hosts a photography challenge each month, providing a subject for us to photograph, and lots of links to helpful sites. This month, the challenge was food. And it was a challenge.

I took so many photos and discarded most of them. They just didn't look like I wanted them look, nor even as good as other food photos I've taken. 

Shadows everywhere in spite of using a foam core board at right angles to bounce light and using the brightest corner of my dining room, with corner windows for light.

Frustrated, I went back and looked over some of the food photos I like best and discovered they were all taken outdoors. So out I went, in my sweater and socks, onto the deck, with my pears (second photo) and my salad. Little Miss A watched from inside the house. "What are you doing, Nana? Close the door or the bugs will bite me." Luckily, it's much too cold for bugs.

I was also determined to use more of the manual features of my little Nikon Coolpix, and so I took about a hundred shots of the roasted pears with créme anglaise using various settings. In the end, I find that the settings feature on my camera usually gives me the photos I'm happiest with - I used the closeup setting for all of these. Any editing involved some cropping and boosting the contrast with Picasa. 

For more challenge participants, visit A Personal Photo Challenge. Next month is layering textures - yikes - I know nothing about that! A good challenge is ahead.

Oh, for food photographers, the book Plate to Pixel by Hélène Dujardin is wonderful. It`s a fine primer for food, but also any still life photography. I highly recommend it. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sharing the Ordinary

 I've recently read the final posts of a few bloggers who are giving up blogging. There are many reasons for discontinuing a blog, such as other priorities or a busy schedule. A couple have said that they feel they've said all they have to say and have nothing new to report. Life is the same. The house, the garden, the travels have all been written about and posted.

I am finding that I appreciate the "slice of life" blogs more than I ever did. Yes, I like finding new recipes, decorating ideas, sewing projects to inspire, and more. But as each of us lives life in our own sphere of influence, blogging is, for me, a way of reaching out, touching hands and hearts, and saying, "you are not alone, I am not alone." We share life together.  As one navigates the loss of a dear parent, another rejoices in the birth of a grandchild, while others focus on finding balance between work and family life. 

I learn from you. I see those of you with grandchildren older than my own and I think, "I want to be that kind of grandmother."  I commiserate with you, smile with you, and pray for you. You are my friends. 

I love to read about the sense you make of daily life, or the lack thereof. There's always something new to discover and something new to appreciate. Real life lived by real women in a world that often makes little sense. That's what I love about reading your blogs. Please don't stop because you feel that your life is ordinary. Make the ordinary beautiful by focusing on the moments, by sharing the ordinary.

I discovered Louise Penny, a Canadian mystery writer, through someone's blog. And I'm hooked. I've read three of her books, not in order, and will be going back to complete the series. This, her latest, is the one I finished most recently. Beautiful writing. beautiful snippets of philosophy. Have you read any of her books?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Random but Unified

 Thanksgiving preparations are underway here. Cranberry Sauce can be made ahead as it keeps for a long time. I usually prepare enough for Thanksgiving and Christmas at the same time, along with a few jars for throughout the year. It's just as good with chicken as it is with turkey. Our children used to call cranberry sauce "turkey jam." Not that it was made from turkeys, but was eaten with turkey.

Our Vancouver-based daughter made a quick trip home last weekend to attend a friend's wedding. She brought home two vases of beautiful creamy and apricot roses. I've been enjoying them immensely. Just look at those perfectly placed swirls. 

And a question: Do you like cilantro? I do. I love it. But my husband detests it. He hates the smell and the taste. I find it fresh and delightful. Apparently there's a genetic reason for this difference. I rarely buy it because I can live without it, but at the market this week, a bunch of it fairly jumped into my cart. I've been adding it to my salads and soups with great gustatory pleasure. 

The link between the three items above - they're all plants. That's as close as I can get. 

Thank you for your moose/elk/stag story comments on my previous post. Nature can certainly be beautiful and dangerous - often at the same time. 

Monday, October 07, 2013

October Moose Memory

This morning I read Jill's post about her moose encounter. Since then, I've been thinking about a moose meeting of my own. The photo above has nothing to do with my story, but looks kind of fall-ish, don't you think?

On a very early morning in October, in the first year of our marriage, I went out hunting with Tim. He usually hunted with his brother, Ron, but this time, the two of them brought their wives. We planned to divide any resulting moose meat between us.

We left town while it was still dark, arriving at Willow River at dawn. Tim's grandparents had had a farm in the area, and Tim and his siblings spent several summers there, so he knew the area well. Ron and Donna went one direction and Tim and I another, agreeing to meet at a certain spot later. Tim and I headed down an old corduroy road across Sam's field. Beavers had taken over the abandoned field and created a very boggy environment, just the sort of place that moose love. 

Ethereal clouds of mist rose from the field. My nose felt the chill of frost. We walked as softly as possible, not talking. The fog-softened shape of an old barn formed in the near distance. Suddenly, as if by the most wonderful magic ever, a moose materialized. Leggy and elegant, she stepped through the marshy field, her long nose upright as she looked about. Slowly, gracefully, she passed in front of us. We held our breath, not wanting to disturb the magic. It was like a scene from Narnia. 

No, we didn't shoot the moose - it wasn't cow season. And we were both glad. It's been over 35 years since that October morning, but it's a scene we've talked about many times. Tim and his brother got a moose to fill the freezer on a later trip, without their wives.

That's my October Moose Memory. Do you have a moose or other wildlife story? 


Sunday, October 06, 2013

Autumn Sun: Mosaic Monday

Last weekend is but a distant, rainy memory in light of today's sunny warmth.

We went for a walk to Tod's Inlet again - it's relatively close by and always beautiful. I don't know the name of the above seed pods, but are they not pretty with their long curving tendrils and red centers? 

Autumn color is just beginning. Yellows and reds glow through the evergreens.

Tiny toadstools grow on a mossy log, white and delicate. 

Yellow leaves glow in the sunlight but will soon be dry and brown as in the photo beneath. Such is autumn. For now, we'll take all the warmth and sun that comes our way. Such gifts are not to be ignored.

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

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Sunshine, Flowers, and Soup

Beautiful sunshine today meant a walk with Little Miss S and her mother, some garden clean up, and photos of some indomitable roses. They survived the fierce winds and rain of earlier in the week.

This is an overhead shot of a hydrangea bush that produced deep blue flowers in the summer, which slowly mellowed to this rich purpley-pink. I think I'll cut some to dry.

In contrast, this hydrangea bush produced paler blue flowers in the summer and is now pale pink with some darker petals. 

And for dinner, a warming bowl of Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. By candlelight. An autumn delight.

What fall delights are you enjoying in these early days of October?

Living Alongside Medieval History

  Several people have asked why we chose Leiden for our visit to the Netherlands. We've found it's easy to stay in the large cities ...