Sunday, November 30, 2014

A German Christmas Market comes to Vancouver

Our Vancouver kids are the travelers who spent 10 months in Europe a couple of years ago. Two of those months were in Berlin. They enjoyed visiting the Christmas markets during November and December.

For the past 5 years, a German Christmas market has come to Vancouver. It's set up in the Queen Elizabeth Plaza downtown. From their apartment, Owen, Ashley and I walked about 45 minutes through streets thronging with people and brightly lit shops. 

 The market is aglow with lights and small stands featuring wares from Poland, Turkey, Germany, and Canada. We sipped mugs of Gluhwein as we strolled through the stalls looking at wooden toys, homemade soaps, textiles, ornaments and much more.

Dinner was a crispy schnitzel with mushroom gravy and potato salad shared by Ashley and me. Owen had a Bratwurst with onions and sauerkraut. It was all delicious!

Ashley and I posed in front of the huge Christmas tree. The Nutcracker stood outside the Kathe Wohlfahrt store which features decorations including ornate German pyramids and delicate glass ornaments. No photos were allowed. I purchased a new tree topper for our Christmas tree. 

In the centre of the above photo, Ashley and Owen are each eating a Rotato - a deep fried potato twisted around a stick. We had a lot of fun. I'm sure that centre photo is blurry because I was laughing so hard.

After getting chilled on our walk home we enjoyed hot chocolate and a couple of games of Bananagrams before bed. The next day was packing and cleaning. I wasn't there for the actual move - that's  happening today and tomorrow. 

Linking with Judith of Lavender Cottage for Mosaic Monday.  

Friday, November 28, 2014

A bit of eating, even less sewing, and sweet playtime

Roasted vegetables. One of my favourite things to eat. Even my sprouts hating husband will eat these little choux de Bruxelles when they emerge tender and slightly caramelized from the oven. And sweet potatoes - best roasted, in my opinion. 

The dining room table is where I like to sew. These days it's piled high with projects of various sorts. I'm hoping for a finish of at least one project soon, to encourage me along. I'm making new stockings for the family. (again? I hear them say) Yep, again. They don't take long and I had the fabric lounging on the shelf, looking very smug. 

For years I've stored my sewing machine feet in a ziploc bag. Then I saw this idea via Pinterest and had an aha moment, as well as some vinyl in the fabric closet. The above bag is my first attempt and you can be sure there will be more of them. So useful.

A little man came over for a visit yesterday while his mother took his sister for a medical checkup. He napped (very short), knocked down towers, cried a little, ate a snack (loves grated cheese), and cuddled. Such sweetness.

The fabric stack on the dining room table won't be going down this weekend. In a couple of hours I'm walking to the bus stop (hope the rain ceases soon) and heading across the Strait to Vancouver to help our youngest daughter and SIL with their move to another apartment, this one closer to her work and in a newer building. It's a quick trip - I'll be back tomorrow night. Then it begins - Advent! 

I hope all my American readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Writing on the Tea Cups

Here's a closer look at the oversize tea-cups shown in my last post. A number of you asked for a closer look at the script. It's Italian, which I don't know, but I can figure out a few words. For a long while now French phrases are everywhere so I was surprised to see these in Italian. And I ask - Is Italian the new French?

I'd like to study another language (in addition to French and Spanish) and I'm torn between German (my heritage) and Italian. The latter would be easier, but I've always been partial to German, too. My parents didn't speak English until they went to school in Canada and would speak it occasionally together when I was growing up. Mostly to keep secrets. But they had suffered teasing and worse as children and determined that their own children would be fully Canadian and wouldn't need German.

That went on a bit of a rabbit trail. 

Tim bought me a tall glass vase containing stones and three paperwhite bulbs. I added water and here's the result. Deep magic!

And another view. Do you think they will bloom by Christmas? The instructions said to add a couple of tablespoons of clear spirits at this stage to prevent legginess, but I don't have any and I'll probably not purchase it just for this. If I did, I could make some vanilla with the rest.

Teaching calls continue. Half a day yesterday. Today. I mentioned to Tim this morning that my work is directly related to the health of the general population. He agreed and said that it's not even winter yet and the hospitals here are overflowing.

So. Languages - do you enjoy them? Any bulbs poking little green shoots up at your house?  I'm off to work and will chat later.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Saturday at Home

Pale blue sky shows through the grey morning light, welcome after a night of wind and rain. I snapped this from my dining room at 10 am. 

The china hutch. I'm becoming fonder of plain white dishes, especially for serving pieces. But I'll always add a bit of colour - here it's blue, although you might notice a tiny band of red on the two oversized cups on the top shelf. They are a recent acquisition thanks to a birthday gift card. 

Soon I'll add greenery and a little more red - the holly berry bush is loaded this year.

Most of the day was spent in the kitchen, baking. The Pecan Toffee Bar recipe can be found by clicking on the link. It will take you to my recipe blog.

The baking is for an event with some of my husband's work colleagues. I offered to bring a tray of goodies so that's what I worked on today, not knowing if I'll be called in to work again next week - it's cold season and there's a doozy going around. I taught every day last week in the same classroom.

How are you all faring? Escaping illness so far? I hope so. Tim and I have both had the current version of a cold and we're glad it's behind us.

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Judith of Lavender Cottage Gardening. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

It's Time

The last of the summer tomatoes. They've ripened on newsprint in the laundry room. Today I'll trim the bad spots and roast them together with pungent onions, fresh garden herbs and a generous glug of olive oil. Goodbye delicious tomatoes.

An oddly shaped package sat on my doorstep when I arrived home from school yesterday. I recently won a giveaway on the blog Delightful Repast. Thank you, Jean. These silicone spatulas will come in handy now that it's time to think about Christmas baking. That blue makes me smile inside and out.

It's also time for Cranberry Pumpkin Bundt Cake. This photo is from last year although I made the cake again recently. For lack of fresh/frozen cranberries, I used dried and the cake is not nearly as good. I also used the tail end of my organic baking powder and I wonder if it's out of date. Baking can really be hit and miss at times.

I'm looking forward to some time to light this candle and spend some time on the couch, stitching away at a few projects. However, I've been called to teach every day this week. 

I introduced Romeo and Juliet to a class of Grade 9 students. Lots of setting the stage, so to speak, before beginning reading the prologue. 

One young man's reaction to the prologue was, "Oh Shakespeare! I'd like to go back in time and plead with you, 'Please, don't write anything. You don't know what you're starting."

I could only laugh and sympathize as I could see my own husband as a high school student having the same reaction. We're onto Act 1, Scene 3 and this same young man volunteered to read a part and succeeded admirably.

How do you feel about Shakespeare? Yea or nay? What kind of literature do you most enjoy?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Find Joy in the Ordinary

The camera sits on the shelf these days. Reasons there are a-plenty: busy days of work, darkness closing in earlier and earlier, and a lack of motivation.

 Over the weekend I picked up my camera and snapped a few photos of life around here. The stack of books I'm reading above - mysteries, writing inspiration, biography.

I'd like to move into this room. Evenings find me sprawled on the carpet with a pillow and a throw in front of the fire. The book there is a new one - I was the first to check it out from our public library. A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey, by Jessica Fellowes, niece of Julian Fellowes. Luscious photographs, recipes, and 12 chapters (one for each month) giving more insight into the world we've come to enjoy.

One caveat - if you haven't watched Season 5 (just finished in the UK) don't read this book quite yet as there are spoilers. I've watched the season on line so nothing untoward was revealed. I'm awaiting the Christmas special.

Candles on the kitchen table add coziness to our evening meal. Finding cozy is important these days. We've enjoyed a good run of sunshine, but the clouds are moving in and the rains will come. 

Jen of Muddy Boot Dreams wrote a wonderful post yesterday about finding joy in the ordinariness of life. It happens to all of us - ordinary things make up most of the day. Jen challenged her readers to find joy in these small things.

What's giving you joy today? Where are you finding cozy?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sit a Spell

seen from the boat as we headed home last Sunday afternoon

Four o'clock in the afternoon. Just home from school. Long slants of light filter through the trees outside my window. A few birds flit here and there in the bare branches. Darkness is near.
I have my feet up, a cup of tea beside me. The fire flickers. Time for a little break before moving on to dinner preparations (just leftovers tonight). 
Thinking ahead to the weekend:  municipal election tomorrow, some house cleaning and cooking, time with one grandchild tonight and two on Sunday night, giving parents time off. 
For now, I'll sip my tea and read a chapter or two of a P.D. James mystery. 
Looking forward to catching up with my favourite blogs over the weekend. What are your plans?   

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

On the Forest Floor

Look down. There's an amazing world on the forest floor. Ashley is interested in learning about mushrooms, preferably the edible kind, so she had me taking photos of all kinds of fungi, from various angles. I had my zoom lens on my camera because I was planning to snap big-picture shots. But we made it work.

This is the only one we positively identified - amanita muscaria, or fly agaric - not edible but highly photogenic.

Lichens and grasses clinging to a rocky cliff edge with the sun dancing on the water in the background. 

A natural collage with leaves, sticks, moss, fungi and arbutus berries for colour. The hand of a master artist.

There were hundreds of apples fallen on the ground and more in the trees. Orchards planted by a settler family who once provided the area with fresh strawberries and plenty of apples. Crisp and delicious and now abandoned.

We hadn't brought any bags from the boat, so Tim tied his jacket into a carrying bag, and I suggested filling my hood. Ashley snapped this photo as we headed back. Tonight we enjoyed a salad with apples, avocado, grapefruit and pomegrante seeds. Yum!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Bit of Stitching

The sewing urge has been quite dominant lately. It's a good thing. My daughter-in-law's birthday is later this week, but we celebrated this past weekend. I stitched up two pillow covers using fabrics that will go in her living room. A simple Granny Square block with diagonal machine quilting came together without any glitches.

We also celebrated my daughter's birthday which was the previous weekend. I don't make clothes for my kids much any more, but last spring I stitched up this Vogue 8689 pattern and it turned out a wee bit too small so I gave it to my youngest daughter. Then I thought it would nicely fit her elder sister, so this time I made it in a cozy flannel. It does fit her, and oddly, it fits me, too, although I don't think I've lost any inches. Next I'll make it for myself, allowing for a little more room where needed.
This afternoon I worked in the garden, digging some manure into the garden beds where it can rot over the winter. I planted a few more tulips, some Siberian iris and Allium bulbs.

The winner of the Gladys Taber book is Deanna of Creekside Cottage.  Congratulations, Deanna. I'll contact you via email for your address.

We Will Remember Them

photo from the Canadian Legion 63

Every year my elementary school, like others across Canada, held a special assembly to commemorate Remembrance Day. The year I was in Grade 7, I was selected to read the poem In Flanders Fields, to the students, teachers and parents who attended. 

I remember telling the teacher that I could recite it by memory because of its familiarity over the years. However, it was decided that there was more gravitas to reading than reciting. It's a poem that has stayed with me through the years, and one that I recite to myself on Remembrance Day, to honour those who have fallen for the sake of freedom. We in Canada wear poppies, provided by the Canadian Legion, as a sign of remembrance.

We will remember them.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Weekend Fun

This photo makes me laugh every time I look at it. Aunty and Uncle with a niece and nephew, trying to get the littles to look at the camera. Real life.

Our Vancouver kids came over for the weekend and we all gathered on Saturday night for birthday festivities. We like to lump close birthdays together in a joint celebration. Here are two little hugging cousins with their matching blue eyes.

Mister F is now mobile and interested mostly in the things he can't have, like the fireplace and technology. He's awfully cute.

On Sunday we took Owen and Ashley out on the boat. Such a beautiful day. Blue skies, blue water, and all the glories of creation. 

This was the first boating trip with my new camera and I snapped away. The zoom lens enables me to take different kinds of shots.  Such fun. 
I did have a very scary moment. On the way back the water was a bit rough. I stood in the boat and took photos sort of leaning out a bit. Suddenly a wave hit and I stumbled, my knees going onto the seat and my camera forward. I managed to keep hold of it, but promptly put the neck strap around my neck.

"That's what it's there for," reminded Tim.

We stopped at Russell Island for a little exploration. I've written about this island before, here, and here

Rocky outcroppings, arbutus trees laden with berries, paths scattered with yellow maple leaves. So much loveliness.

These colours make my heart sing - the blues, whites, greys and tans in infinite shades. Intense.

And just look at the design on these Harlequin Ducks. Isn't it amazing? They are slate blue on the top, which doesn't show up well in this photo. Such a handsome pair.

The weekend feeling continues around here. Although Tim had to work today, he has tomorrow off for Remembrance Day. The Vancouver pair are still here so the pace is slow and relaxed. So lovely to visit. And the sun shines.


Friday, November 07, 2014

Photo Challenge: Trees

Hooray! It's time for the personal photo challenge, always a great linkup. This month's theme was trees. I took all kinds of photos of trees this month, but it seemed like when I could get out and use my camera, the weather was dull or rainy. On the rare sunny days, I worked. 

Back to my archives went I. This photo was taken in August, on our boating excursion. It's a detail of an arbutus tree (a long green limb is seen in the background). Paper thin red bark curls away to reveal smooth green wood. In the USA this is known as a Madrona tree. It needs to be near the ocean to thrive.

On to a September tree, photo taken as the sun set over the Sooke hills. A gnarly Garry Oak stands silhouetted against the pale sky, leaves intact but beginning to dry and brown.

I'm certain I saw Jane Eyre walk by this pond and tree scene, her dark cloak swirling round her in the drizzle. Mossy trunks, hanging vines, soggy autumn leaves and rain droplets make for a bit of mystery.

There it is. Three trees. Check out Donna's photo challenge links for interesting tree shots.

Today is sunny and there are fluffy white clouds against a blue sky. No time for picture taking, though. 

Technical details: The arbutus tree photo was taken with my dear departed Nikon Coolpix P7100. It was one of its last photos. Sigh.

The next two photos were taken with my Panasonic Lumix. Very little editing was done on any of the photos beyond a little contrast enhancement.

And a reminder that my giveaway for the Gladys Taber book, Stillmeadow Calendar, is still open.  

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Playing Tourist and a Giveaway

On our weekend trip we stayed in the very tiny town of Washougal, WA. Right next door was the not-quite-as-tiny town of Camas. Such a pretty little place. Old brick buildings, huge trees arching over the street, Narnian-worthy lampposts and a fun little antique mall.

Doesn't that lamppost make you want to look for snow and Mr. Tumnus?

There wasn't a lot of time for touring around - just a few hours on Saturday morning. The major item on my list was Powell's Books. Oh. My. Three floors jam-packed with books: new books, old books, rare books, used books, children's books.  Be still, my beating heart. I could have spent hours in the store. As it was I came out with a lovely bag full of delight including...

Gladys Taber's Stillmeadow Calendar. I read a couple of her books years ago and have kept half an eye out for them ever since. They have been out of print for a long time and go for crazy prices online. And here they were - two copies of Stillmeadow Calendar. Why two copies? Well, for those of you who are fans of Taber's writing, I thought a giveaway would be fun. Her books are filled with the small things that make up life and this particular book takes the reader through the year with observations on nature and life in general. 

No hoops to jump through, just leave a comment and I'll draw a name sometime next week. 

Oh, and if you have a Google+ profile, I can't contact you, so please leave an email address in your comment or send me an email saying you'd like to enter the giveaway.

Is anyone else having a hard time adjusting to the time change? It just seems so dark all the time to me. Perhaps it has nothing to do with changing the clocks and everything to do with the grey weather. The above photo was taken at 4:22 pm this afternoon.


Sunday, November 02, 2014

An Autumn Wedding

My nephew was married on Saturday down in Vancouver, Washington. The venue was Cape Horn Estate on the Columbia River Gorge, overlooking the river and surrounded by mountains and autumn-colored trees.

It was a lovely affair, simple and elegant. Lots of greenery and white flowers that complemented the country feel of the building.

The photos include one of the couple's first dance, and of the groom's parents, my brother and sister-in-law. My brother's hair has lightened considerably, but it was once as dark as his son's. 

White, green and gold. A ceremony filled with personal touches. A delicious meal. Conversations with family whom I see all too seldom. Warmth inside that belied the steady drizzle outside.

And now I'm home again, curled up by the fire with a cup of tea, reliving the moments.

Joining with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Judith.

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-...