Friday, November 29, 2013

Gifts That Cost More

There's no hint of Christmas decor up here yet. This photo is from last year. But that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about the season. I've cleared away the autumn decor. The house is spare and clean, waiting. Tomorrow I'll continue with some cleaning, then prepare the candles for Advent.

Today is Black Friday. I watched some snippets of the hullaboo in the country to the south of us. And I heard about situations, not quite as dramatic, here in Canada, where Black Friday fever seems to have swept over the retailers. And what's it all about? Getting stuff for cheap. Saving money. Trampling over people (literally) to get stuff that's going to be out of style, broken and useless in a few years.

I'm all for saving money and not spending what I don't have to. But as society searches for the cheapest gifts that money can buy, I think about gifts that might cost a whole lot more. Not gifts that I can wrap up and place under the tree, but gifts that will carry meaning long after the tree drops all its needles, the candles burn out, and the batteries run dead.

I'm thinking about gifts that will cost me something intangible, but utterly important. Like forgiveness. It's hard to make the first move when I feel misunderstood or treated badly. My pride gets in the way. It costs me dearly to step into the breach and say, "In the grand scheme of life, does this quarrel matter? Let's make up. I forgive you. Will you forgive me?" I know of too many siblings who won't speak to each other, too many children estranged from their parents. However valid the differences of opinion, I still find it sad.

Or the gift of acceptance. Believe that people have goodness, that people do not want to harm you. Believe in their sincerity. Oh, I know that there are those who will betray that belief and who, perhaps, cannot be trusted. But believe that there is a core within that will respond to love and acceptance. That belief will be a gift to you as much as to the other.

Or the gift of time. Letting a frazzled young mom get ahead of you in the line up. Chatting with that older neighbour who goes on and on while you want to get on with your own tasks. Getting together for tea with a friend you haven't seen in awhile. Time with family, with friends. Time with your spouse. Time with yourself to think.

These gifts will not deplete my bank account or run up my charge card. They will cost me mental effort, emotional output, and time. But in giving forgiveness, acceptance, and time, I believe that my Christmas will be made richer. Not everyone will respond in like manner, but I will have done well. I will have gifted others and gifted myself at the same time.



Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Decor to Adore is a blog I've followed for a very long time. Laura writes about decorating - in the real world. She is such a gentle soul, creative and generous. I'm pretty sure that if we ever meet in real life, we'll get along famously. Recently she held a giveaway, and I won these beautiful earrings. I love the light and sparkle to them, and since I have dark hair, I try to wear lighter coloured earrings. These are perfect! Thank you, Laura.

Now that the craft fair is over (with moderate success), I'm working on Christmas projects. The bags shown above were created from donated upholstery samples. Fronts and backs are different and I've had such fun mixing and matching colours and prints. They will be filled with toiletries, gloves, and other items to give to disadvantaged women in our town. Tomorrow we'll get together and fill them. 

Things are looking bare in the decorating department around here. I'm putting away the autumn decor and cleaning in preparation for Advent, which begins on Sunday. Full scale decorating won't begin until later. We always have a real tree and like to keep it up until New Year's, so we wait. I'm liking the idea of bringing out the decorations a bit at a time - Advent candles and some greenery this weekend, followed by the Nativity scene, the outdoor wreath and others.

I'm feeling very mellow about Christmas this year, or at least, at this moment. That could change at any moment. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American friends. Have a wonderful day! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Boating in November

After church on Sunday morning, we thought to invite some friends out for coffee. They had a better idea. So seven of us met at the marina and clambered aboard their Nordic Tug. We set course for Fulford Harbour on Saltspring Island.

The cool frost of early morning gave way to sunshine. In the distance, Mount Baker (in Washington State) shows off her snowy garb.

We women (3) sat outdoors while the men discussed boat technicalities in the cockpit. Our faces lifted to the warm sun, blankets (barely needed) around our legs, we sipped mugs of tea or coffee and marveled at the beauty around us. We talked an awful lot, too.

Lunch at the Rock Salt Restaurant was delicious. I had an Saigon Chicken Salad, lovely with Asian flavours of ginger, peanut, crispy vegetables and grilled Naan bread.

Light began to fade as we headed home. 

The sun slanted low across the horizon, turning the water to liquid steel. 

This weather is unusual  - we're normally inundated with rain by now. I'll not complain one iota! 

I'm thinking of all my friends south of the border these days as you prepare for Thanksgiving. I hope your preparation is full of joyful anticipation.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Frosty Mornings

Looking out of the window early in the morning, I see frost-covered roofs. Morning sun soon melts it all away, so this morning, before church, I headed out into the garden with my camera. Delicate crystals edge the oregano leaves like finely crocheted lace and speckle my neighbour's grapevine hanging over our fence. Brown, decaying hydrangea leaves are transformed with a dusting of frost. 

Beauty in the small things. I'll be linking to Mosaic Monday later this afternoon. In the meantime, we're going out on the water, with friends. The sun is shining and we must make the most of these days.

I wish you a Sunday filled with beauty whether the weather is frosty or sunny.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chocolate, Music Paper, and Concrete

More and more of our friends (and family) are eating gluten-free. I don't want to fill my pantry with tons of alternative foods that I'll rarely use. These cookies are good alternative, containing no flour of any kind. I'm adding them to my Christmas baking list. I made them this morning and they are yummy! Chocolate Pecan Brownie Kisses - recipe found by clicking on the link.

Did you take piano lessons as a child? I did, for most of my school years, and later taught piano in Ecuador. I like using music paper in crafts, but have a hard time tearing up my own, definitely vintage, music books. I asked myself recently, "Will you ever play Czerny's Exercises in Passage Playing again? How about the Royal Conservatory Technical Exercises?" The answer was a resounding NO. So I cut them up to make the ornaments seen above.

I made a lot of them for the craft fair this Saturday. For a display idea - an inverted tomato cage. I still need to do something with the top. 

And a driveway report. The  concrete pour went well. We put up barricades to keep people off for a couple of days. But how disappointing to wake up this morning to discover cat prints in the fresh concrete. A whole trail of them. Grrrr. Next project is a new porch.

Time for another cookie. What's happening around your place today?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November Skies: Vee's Note Card Party

Vee's Note Card Party sneaked up on me this month. I haven't taken as many photos as I would like. So I went through past November archives and found a photo featuring a November sky for each of the past four years. 

Pinky greys and blues coloured the early morning sky in Parksville in 2010. 

Garry Oak branches and leaves against a cloudy sky (2012).

Stunning gold against impossible blue (2011).

Silvery greys reflected in the ocean (2013). 

Seeing the variety of sky colour in these November photos encourages me. Not every day is dreary and grey. The sun does shine! In fact, sunnier days are forecast for the rest of this week.

Edited to add: This morning was beautifully sunny, but now, just after noon, the sky is dark and ominous. This does not bode well - we're having our "new" driveway concrete poured this afternoon. Will let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I'm planning to visit Vee's Party and chat with all her guests. It's always a fun time. Everyone is made very welcome.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Drippy, Dreary November

It's one of those November days when you have to create your own cheer. Rain pelts down and the sky is dark. I taught today (Bible and Home Ec classes) and the students were great, but the school was chilly, chilly. Coming home, all I wanted was a cup of hot tea. So here I sit, with my tray to hand, a little candle burning, Earl Grey with a bit of milk, and the almonds and chocolate are gone. A hot rice bag sits at my back. I have about 45 minutes before I'll begin dinner prep. Ahhhh. Comfort.

Speaking of dinner - when someone in your household doesn't particularly like something, do you avoid cooking it even though you enjoy it? I like brussel sprouts but the man of the household does not. So I rarely pick them up at the market. However, I make granola for him and I don't eat it. Lately, I've been buying sprouts. I had them roasted up at Mater's place last month (cooked by Pater) and enjoyed them so much. 

Last night I cooked these - steamed them for a few minutes until mostly tender in a skillet, then added a little olive oil and sauteed them until the water evaporated and they browned a little. Then, a teaspoon or so of honey and some finely grated orange rind. Tim even tried some and declared them not bad at all.

What do you do for comfort on a dreary day? And do you cook things just for yourself, even if other members of the household don't eat them? 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My November Garden

There's not much colour left in my garden. A few stalwart leaves cling to mostly bare branches. The barberry bush is one example. I took these photos a few days ago and glanced outdoors to compare - there are far fewer leaves today. Rich pinks are in evidence on both the lingering hydrangea blossoms and their leaves, albeit somewhat battered looking.

The kale plants are green as green can be. We've had a few light frosts and I've heard that the cold will sweeten kale. We'll be harvesting until early spring when it's time to plant again. Carrots, seen in the corner, can stay in the ground most of the winter, too. I harvest a row or so at a time. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013


 The elements of nature brought into my home are changing. Green gives way to more subtle shades. On our weekend excursion, I collected a bouquet of gull feathers, white and grey. They sit on my mantel, nestled into the curve of a piece of driftwood garnished with a brown leaf.

Color exists elsewhere; seen here in a box of reusable sandwich/snack bags I've been stitching for an upcoming craft fair. My daughter-in-law requested some last year, and I'd intended to make more - they make great stocking stuffers - but have only gotten around to the project now. Some are listed in my Etsy shop. Lined with water resistant nylon, they make a good alternative to plastic bags. I've been avoiding plastic as much as possible for several years now.

Lavender grows well here and this summer I harvested a fair bit of it, then combined it with dried rose petals from my roses to fill some simple sachets. I've had these pretty bits of fabric and lace tucked away ever since a swap with Jane of Marigold Jam a few years ago. I like using old damask linen napkins from the thrift store for sachets, too.

I was at the fabric store yesterday. The young girl who cut my fabric folded it all so neatly, taking care to see that each piece was stacked with corners matching. When I commented on it, she said that she likes to think that presenting the fabric in its best light will cause the customer to think of it as a gift. 

An action like that just makes me want to treat others as best I can, too. Have you recently been treated well by someone unexpected?


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Of Autumn and Life

During our short trip up Island, we visited the Little Qualicum River Fish Hatchery. It's salmon spawning season in the rivers around here. The photo shows a beautiful scene, quiet water with overhanging branches and picturesque gulls.

What the photo doesn't highlight, but that you can pick out if you look on the left side of the river, against the bank, just under the water, are the hundreds and thousands of dead salmon. They lie there, stacked up in some places three and four deep, lifeless, gray. The stench of death was in the air. Along the bank, picked-over skeletons bear mute evidence to bears, eagles and other predators, including the gulls.

The bright gold coins of autumn are nearly spent
Profligate, they lie sodden,

Leanness settles deep upon the land
Bare limbs reveal austere architecture

Yet, as leaves sink into earth
Hope glimmers in the promise of spring.

The start of this poem came to me as we were driving. The first line was so clear, I wonder if it is from something I read somewhere else. If so, and if you know of the source, please let me know. If not, I guess I'm smarter than I think, because I like the imagery. 

Had any poetic thoughts lately? Care to share? 


Monday, November 11, 2013

Ocean Views and Gulls

 This was my view when I opened my eyes this morning. We took a couple of days of vacation up in Parksville. Our room overlooks the water and we slept with the curtains open so that we could wake up to this view. 

Later in the morning, a walk along the breakwater at French Creek yielded this harmony of water, land and sky. The rocks on the right are covered with gulls. I've never seen so many of them together. A huge flock of gulls, maybe several flocks.

More gulls, wheeling and screaming in the air. There was also a great fluttering and splashing as the gulls bathed. This was a new sight to me, too. Oodles of gulls in the water, flapping their wings to bring the water over their backs, ducking down, squawking all the while. Then they lifted off the water and their white wings glinted in the muted light, bright against the somber forest.

Home again tomorrow.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Textures: A Personal Photo Challenge

It's time for Donna's Personal Photo Challenge. This month our assignment was to explore the world of textures. I've seen some lovely photos altered with textures and thought it was a complicated process. But it's not! I had fun using BeFunky, a free photo editing program to play with textures in these photos. Above are the original images I used. The rose photo was taken this week with my Nikon, the other two in 2009 with my Olympus point and shoot.

 For the rose photo above, I cropped the original photo, adjusted the light and contrast, then went into BeFunky and added a fabric texture, then scratches to give the suggestion of an old painting or photo.

Then I went way back in my photo archives and treated this photo of the Eiffel Tower to a grunge texture. I like the moodiness of the resulting image.

For my last photo, I also used an Eiffel Tower image, this one with a brick image. When I saw it I thought of all kinds of things to say about it - "weird" was one of them. But it's also a bit of a play on how the Eiffel Tower is certainly a "gold brick" for France, bringing in thousands of tourist Euros. Then I looked at the brick wall behind the structure and thought that the image could be a miniature Eiffel Tower set against another building. Or perhaps the brick wall symbolizes the building of walls between cultures (which happens all over the world.) Then I decided to stop thinking.

Do you play with textures? There are some wonderful examples out on the web. Check out The Art of Life - her images really speak to me. 

And certainly check out the participants in Donna's challenge - the links are found here.

Cake and Sewing

It's definitely November out there. Rainy. Windy. Foggy. Makes me glad for a cup of tea and a little bit of comfort food. Like the Pumpkin Cranberry Cake above. I make it at least a couple of times a year and it never disappoints. The link will take you to the recipe. 

Just keeping it real, here. I have a lovely sewing room upstairs. My fabric is stored in the closet, a dresser is full of supplies, there's a wonderful large desk and a bright window. But you know where I like to sew? In the dining room. Yep. When I have a major project or want to do a lot of sewing, I haul my machine and supplies downstairs. Then I clean it all up on the weekend and haul it all down again on Monday morning. Or Sunday afternoon. 

I find myself running upstairs from time to time for a bit of interfacing or a special tool. But I don't mind. As far as efficiency goes, my back thanks me for being highly inefficient. More movement = less back pain and that's a good thing. (as a side note, my back issues are not serious, but chronic and a result of a bit of scoliosis) 

So today, there are stacks of fabric on the dining room chairs, a wastebasket beside my sewing chair and threads all over the carpet. But I'm having fun and I feel like I'm in the middle of things where I can see out the front window and out the back through the corner windows in the dining room. And I'm closer to tea and cake.

Where do you like to craft/sew/putter? In a dedicated studio or in the middle of the house? 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013


After Tim's conference in Vancouver last week, we drove out to Chilliwack to see my family.  A beautiful white miniature rose plant was sitting on the dresser with a card - a gift from my parents. I've been admiring its creamy blossoms and thought they needed photographing. They might be used for the textures assignment for Donna's Personal Photo Challenge coming up on Saturday.

With all our gallivanting, I neglected to shout out a Happy Birthday to Eldest Daughter, who can visit now on her own blog, Dapple Design. My birthday, hers, and daughter-in-love Katie's fall within a two week period, so we usually celebrate together. This year's will be on Saturday.

In the photo, Cristal models an apron I sewed. I've stitched up a bunch of them for an upcoming craft fair, and to stock my Etsy shop. There are such fun fabrics out there. I want them ALL. But I can't. 

Early last year, Elizabeth of Cornish Cream contacted me about creating a custom blank journal for a friend of hers. We consulted via email and Skype. Green was the preferred colour, and she said her friend loved fritillarias. I confess I had to look up the flower, but now that I know its name, I've seen it growing around here in the spring, too. Does it grow in your area? For the journal I used the covers from an old cookbook, drilled the holes, inserted eyelets and stitched the covers with the pages in linen thread.

I've also re-stocked my Etsy shop with more blank journals.  Do you keep a journal? Blogging is a type of journaling, but I continue to fill blank pages with words as well. Some things are not meant for publication. Virginia Woolf referred to her journal writing as "this loose, drifting material of life..."

Yep. That about sums up my journal writing. And this post. Off to my sewing machine!



Monday, November 04, 2013

A Divine Moment

In my post on Saturday, I briefly mentioned a storm that caused ferry cancellations. What I didn't tell you is what happened before we arrived at the ferry terminal.

The rain was pelting down and the wipers flapped back and forth furiously trying to keep up. We were on a divided highway, in the left lane, with not too much traffic. A good distance between cars. The car in the right lane, just ahead of us, suddenly went through a puddle and threw up a huge wall of water onto our windshield. 

Instant blindness. We could not see anything but the water on the window. There we were, hurtling down the highway without a clue of what was in front of us. Driving blind. In those few seconds, I imagined of the concrete barrier on our left and the lane of cars on our right. I waited for a collision. Was this to be our end? There wasn't much fear. Both of us were utterly silent, waiting. I didn't think of my family, or of my life. All I did was wait. I don't think I even breathed. Those seconds felt like an eternity.

Then the water cleared. We had drifted slightly over the line into the right lane, but no cars were there. Divine protection. I think so. As I exhaled, the words came, "God, thank you, thank you." And then the shaking terror of "what might have been," followed by tears of relief/shock, which come even now as I write this.

This incident has played over and over in my mind since then. I am thankful to God for life and protection. 


Sunday, November 03, 2013

Beautiful Grey

Our time in Vancouver and then Chilliwack last week went by quickly. But I found time, one afternoon, while Ashley had class, to walk along the seawall at Stanley Park, from English Bay to Siwash Rock. I'd hoped to go further, but time was marching on, so I turned back.

The sunny days dissolved into misty grey while we were there. Sea, sky, and shore blended into monochromatic vistas, save for the occasional pop of brilliant leaves.

Tankers at anchor in the harbour await their turn to load or unload. They, too, melted into the landscape.

Birds hung out on the rocks. In the bottom center photo, a cormorant spreads its wings to dry. I learned recently that cormorants have feathers with more "wet-ability" than other seabirds, to enable them to compress their feathers in order to be able to dive deeper for fish. Hence the wide-spread wing stance on the rocks. It would have been a chilly day for air-drying.

Linking with Mary for Mosaic Monday, at the Little Red House.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Wind and rain

Wind and rain have cancelled ferry sailings so while waiting for the storm to abate I'm using the free wifi at the terminal to figure out mobile blogging with my I phone.

Hmmm. It's wet out there.  

Hope your Saturday is more profitable than mine. 

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