Thursday, April 28, 2016

Five on Friday

Outside my window the branches are tossing in the bright-lit wind. During my drive home from work I passed through a swirl of yellow petals from some unrecognized tree. The front yard contains two pink flowering bushes that are competing for best-in-show, I think. A small rhododendron has buried all its leaves with pale blossoms. The weigela is a mass of slightly warmer pink flowers. Lavender buds are forming.  

I am marveling at roses in April. Really. These past two winters have been so mild that everything blooms much earlier than usual. I have dared fate and the late frosts to plant my garden. Not the tomatoes and squashes, but hardier things like carrots, peas, radishes and spinach. Usually, I wait until the last full moon in May.

Better late than never, they say. Earlier this week I arrived home to a parcel on the doorstep. The return address said Australia. Bella sent me the beautiful items above as part of the teacup exchange hosted by Stephanie of The Enchanting Rose. I missed the linkup to all the posts - mail delivery overseas can be soooo sloooow. I'm looking forward to sipping some of that Australian Afternoon tea from the blue striped teacup that has a distinctly French vibe to me. Thank you, Bella.

I went out after work today and noticed that the chives have burst into flower. So I picked a bouquet for the kitchen windowsill, after snapping a few photos outdoors.

We took the winter covering off the lemon tree and picked a few lemons that had ripened over the winter. How does it do that? Lemon trees are amazing for having blossoms, small fruit, and ripe fruit all at the same time. Lemon bars seemed like a good use for some of those yummy yellow fruits.

I am looking forward to some family time this weekend. For Tim's birthday last month we gifted him a halibut fishing trip, so he and our son and two sons-in-law will be heading out very early on Saturday morning and returning later that day. I hope they bring home some lovely halibut! I don't know that I'll plan on it for dinner, though. We girls have not yet decided what to do, but we'll do something together.

Joining Amy's Five on Friday link up tomorrow.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Domino Effect

A domino effect is most often cited as a negative thing - you know - something bad happens that triggers a set of equally unpleasant circumstances.

I've never thought about the domino effect as a positive thing. Until now. 

Melissa Michaels, who writes the blog The Inspired Room, has also authored a couple of books. Her latest is Make Room for What You Love, available May 1. She sent me an advance copy of the book and I'm slowly making my way through it, taking time to think about the questions she asks.  

I've followed Melissa's blog for quite a few years. Her decorating style is both beautiful and accessible. It's real. And very applicable to someone like me who lives in an average home, but who still wants my home to reflect my personality and taste.  

There's plenty of fodder for thought, including this: "but what if we were able to harness the domino concept in a way that actually works for us rather than against us?" 

She goes on to add, "even one positive move can be the domino to easily inspire habits and successes, knocking others over one by one in the right direction."

My home is fairly neat, but there are hidden pockets of disorder that could do with some attention. Among other things, I value order, yet those closets don't reflect that value. As I continue to read the book, I'll be thinking about what positive steps (or step) I can take to create a domino effect for tidiness throughout my home.

What do you value in your home? How do you maintain that value?  

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Things have been hectic for both of us recently. A mini-vacation seemed to be in order, and what better place to relax than on the water. Tim readied the boat and I haphazardly threw food together and off we went, to Tod Inlet for two nights. 

The photo is of our little boat in the inlet, taken from shore. I played with the watercolour options in Photoshop Elements to get the above effect.

As we ate dinner on Friday night (salads and roasted chicken courtesy of our local grocer's), I looked around and wondered where Tim had stowed the blankets. 

Hmmm. Seems like we'd forgotten them. What to do? Return to the launch, unhook the trailer from the truck and one of us return to town? That would take a long time and we'd be boating and finding anchorage in the dark. Another thought - the entrance to Butchart Gardens was a short dinghy ride and walk away - would our son be willing to give up some of his Friday night to bring us our bedding? Yes, he was. Wonderful son! 

We were VERY grateful for the quilts as the nights are still chilly. 

The woods around Tod Inlet are full of bluebells. A few lilac bushes stand alongside old drives and the remnants of house foundations. Apple trees are in flower, another reminder of days gone by when the inlet was a bustling community.

Lunches are simple affairs. The jar holds a peppery tomato jam that I made last summer and is a wonderful accompaniment to bread, cheese, sausage and vegetables.

These pilings are all that's left of the busy dock that once stood here. The tall ones are now homes for purple martins, and in the evening they swoop and chatter, possibly relating the events of the day before going in for the night.

We, too, are home again, the laundry is sloshing away, and all is ready for another week of work. Two days of reading, paddling, and walking might not seem like much, but I feel rested and raring to go! 

Do you take mini-vacations? What restores your mental and physical energy? 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

On Wednesday Morning

Thank you for all your encouraging words about my father. He is doing well, and should be home from the hospital this evening after an angiogram. We are thankful.

Bluebells are in bloom here at the moment. I moved several clumps from the front garden to the back and didn't know if I'd get any blooms this year. But here they are, in all their glory. 

Lilacs, too, fill the air with beautiful fragrance. I have a bouquet indoors, and it perfumes the room wonderfully. To keep the lilacs from wilting soon in a vase, I smash the woody stems with a hammer meat mallet. They last much, much longer and drink up lots of water.

Report cards will be finished by this afternoon, and then life should return to a more normal routine. We're enjoying very unseasonably warm temperatures.  The sun, the flowers, the bees - oh, how the world is filled with beautiful things. My heart is glad. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Life Lessons

My husband walked by the bedraggled bouquet of tulips on the kitchen counter and said, "I didn't know tulips were blue on the inside." 
So I felt better immediately, thinking that my delay in disposing of the flowers was a little bit educational!

Just a quick post. My father, active and healthy as a horse, suffered a mild heart attack on Friday and I've been preoccupied with that and with the marking for end of term. I apologize for not commenting on your blog posts - I'll be back in a week or so.

My father is spending the weekend in hospital while waiting for some tests early in the week. He's quite bored and chafing to be back at home, so that's a very good sign. 

Back to the marking...accompanied by tea and the lovely scent of lilacs.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Five on Friday

On homesteads scattered across the prairie provinces of Canada, women planted lilac bushes near their homes. Lilacs are hardy plants, blooming reliably year after year, even as the old wooden houses fall into disrepair and lie neglected. Now, in many places, only the rows of trees and lilac bushes stand in witness to the hopes and dreams of those who once farmed the land.

The lilac bush in our garden is relatively new - not yet 15 years old. Its blooms increase each year, in spite of being moved around a fair bit. The blooms are just beginning to open. Such sweet fragrance.

Leaves emerge from the fig tree about the same time as tiny fruit. The larger fruit in the bottom of the photo is left from last fall - it didn't have time to ripen before cold weather set in. 

I received some new sock yarn (the grey and the variegated turquoise - 2 skeins of each) from Yarn Canada. I've just wound them into balls and am contemplating what I'll make with them. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the colours. I'm not an experienced knitter or crocheter at all, yet I enjoy small projects. What would you create?

A row of apple trees grew not far from my childhood home. In spring the blossoms were intoxicating - sweet smelling and luxuriant. My friends and I would cut branches to put into water, but the blossoms never lasted long. We used to climb up into the trees, too, and sit up high, surrounded by lovely fragrance.
Our apple trees are blooming and also sweet smelling, but they are the dwarf variety that will never support a climbing child (or Nana).

Strawberries, too, are blooming. We've discovered that letting them trail over the mulch underneath the apple trees and blueberry bushes results in healthy plants and keeps the slugs away so that we get more berries to eat. That's a very good thing!

The end of another week. It's felt long. Another term has ended and another begins on Monday. School in our province goes to the end of June. The term end means lots of grading of papers and a mad scramble on the part of students who have neglected to turn in their work. 

Over the weekend I hope to not only grade papers, but do some sewing and, if the weather cooperates, get out into the garden. We've had some much needed rain this week and the soil is soft and suitable for weeding or planting. I'd like to do both. 

Linking with Five on Friday, hosted by Amy of Love Made My Home. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Worms, Growth and Gardening

"Worms, Nana....dig worms." A plea from a sweet two-year couldn't be denied, so we spent a happy time digging for worms in the as-yet-unplanted garden beds. 

"ooh, big worm, Nana."
"baby worm, Nana."
"Would you like to hold one?"
"No." Emphatically. 
"Yes." And his sister picked one up and watched it intently on her palm.
"bye, bye worm," as he sprinkled dirt over the earthworm. 

The next all three cousins were over and there was more digging for worms. And happy, dirty faces. 

If everyone is said to have to eat a pound of dirt in his/her lifetime, this little boy is well on his way.

In early spring, I wander out to the garden and am enchanted by the first uncurling leaves, the delicate snowdrops, and the sharp thrust of green-leafed bulbs through brown earth.

Then come the crocuses, the aconites, the daffodils, and my heart wells up with delight as the sun warms my back and growth is prodigious. One by one the plants come to life and flower in graceful procession, slowly, so I can keep track. 

Now, in full spring, it seems as though everything in the garden is racing ahead, tumbling over each other in the effort to bloom. The bluebells are beginning to unfurl, the first lilacs are blooming, and the wisteria is dancing in the breeze. In the front garden the variegated weigela is showing pink buds, the apple trees are in full bloom, and the rhododendron is ready to burst into blossom any day now. 

This mad rush to flower reminds me of my children learning to speak. First one word, then a few, and then more, but we parents could list them all. Then one day, the realization that we couldn't keep up - this young prodigy knew far more words than we could parrot. And so, just as in gardening, we sit back and enjoy the flood - of words or flowers. 

How are things in your garden? Just emerging or growing with abandon? 

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Five on Friday

Spring is popping out all over southern Vancouver Island. Yellow-green baby leaves unfold more fully each day. The sun shines. Heavy dew falls in the night. In the morning I use the heater in the car; in the afternoon, the air conditioner. 

I'm enchanted with the bleeding hearts. I clipped a couple of stems for a jar on my kitchen window sill. The first photo was taken in daylight, the one above at night. A bunch of mint is next to the bleeding heart, dropping pollen. Pollen is drifting everywhere - thankfully, I'm not affected by it, but plenty of others are.

Some weeks are better than others. This has not been one of them. Hopes dashed. Some heartache. Much thankfulness. Life is like that - a mixed drink. And God is here in the pain as well as in the joy.

I like to help mow the grass. I can push the lawnmower, but the edge trimmer is too heavy for me. So Tim begins with the trimming and I with the lawn mower. Back and forth. I love the smell of newly cut grass. I get a workout pushing on the sloped part. By the time he's finished trimming the front and back lawn, I've cut the back and leave him to finish the front. 

All this sunny weather has me thinking about summer cooking. We like to eat seasonally and although many people in our region use their grills year round, we prefer to treat grilling as a warm-weather activity. Last weekend I cleaned the grill and threw on a couple of steaks. (We ended up eating half of one each, which meant steak salad the next day.) I tried a new recipe for a Bacon Cauliflower Bake and it was so very good. Not necessarily good for us, but very good to our taste buds. I started with this recipe and adapted it. A big salad completed the meal.

My tulips are blooming well this year. So well that I cut a few stems to bring indoors. I've kept the camera nearby and have been snapping photos in all kinds of light. The above is taken the afternoon, around 4:30, when I walked in from school and saw the sun slanting on the table with the tulips.

I feel bad for those who are still experiencing wintry weather in the northern hemisphere. (My down-under readers will be looking forward to cooler temperatures.) Spring will come - it always does! 

Linking with the lovely group at Amy's Five on Friday party.  

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

In Defense of Keeping Things

It was just a drywall trowel and tray, but it started me thinking. Tim had used the tools to patch up the wall after replacing the shower in our ensuite bath. As he washed them out, he said, "I bought these at Northern Hardware in Prince George. That must be 30 or more years ago. I don't use them often, but when I need them, they are there." He has a shop full of tools, used infrequently these days, but there when he needs them.

There's a movement in some circles that getting rid of one's things is beneficial. I agree, to a certain extent.

I've moved house over 20 times in our marriage of almost 39 years, including moves overseas and back. Each time I've packed, I've discarded stuff. Papers. Clothes. Books. But there are always items that I hold in my hands and consider, "Do I need this? Will I want it someday? Will I ever use it again?"

Tim's trowel and tray were stored for many years in my parents' basement (thanks, Mom and Dad) while we were overseas. So was much of my china. Am I glad that we kept those things? Yes, without hesitation.

I don't think anyone would call our home cluttered. My decor style is on the spare side, yet I have a collection of items that I rotate in my decor. Cupboards are full; organized, but full. I like pretty linens and have more cloth napkins and tablecloths than many. There's a large selection of vases. For me, the key is using my stuff, not storing it away "for good" and not letting my stuff control me. 

There were a couple of times during our years in Ecuador when we packed emergency bug-out bags - a war, a volcanic eruption, a military coup - if we had to leave the country in a hurry, what would we take? In the end, our bags held little but essential papers, a change of clothing and a few photos. Stuffed toys for the children when they were small. Easily carried.

I like my stuff. I like opening a familiar book and turning to my favorite lines. Setting a pretty table is a fun thing to do. Introducing my grandchildren to china teacups is a delight. If breakages occur, it won't break my heart. The people who drink from them are far more important. 

Rearranging the decorative items on various surfaces is a creative outlet. I have tons of craft and sewing supplies; currently on hiatus while I'm teaching full time. I like having the ability to go in search of threads and tools for small projects. I like the memories that are sparked by many of my things - wedding gifts, presents from children and loved ones, items purchased on vacations, treasures passed down from family. 

When our stuff, in storage at the time, was subjected to a flood, an older woman said to me, "Learn to hold your stuff lightly." I've taken that to heart - if dishes get broken, I don't fuss, if things get ruined, into the trash they go. It's just stuff. I like it, but it doesn't own me.

Does this rather wordy post have a focus? I'm not sure. But I do know that I'm not ready to become a minimalist. Everyone must find the balance between stuff and space for themselves. I'd be interested to read your thoughts on stuff and minimalism.  

Friday, April 01, 2016

Five on Friday

It's awfully difficult for teenagers (and teachers) to focus on grammar, classical roots and literary devices when the sun shines as gloriously as it has this week.

We're basking in warmth and blue skies for a few days. So very lovely. The pot of ranunculus on the front porch welcomes me with pinky smiles when I walk up the steps. 

Tulips are beginning to bloom, in fact, this one caught me unawares and it's almost done! It's from a mixed planter I had last year and put into the ground after it finished blooming so there are just a few of these interestingly tinted tulips.

I went out into the garden for a few minutes after school today and heard plenty of buzzing around the rosemary bush. Bees a-plenty dove in and out of the blossoms. A most welcome sight.

This graceful string of bleeding hearts looks like jewels on a chain, or a charm bracelet of the prettiest sort. They look as though they should chime in the wind, but they are silent.

I hope the bees make it over to the Lapin Cherry tree that is in bloom in another corner of the garden, for the result may be lots of sweet juicy cherries. Wouldn't that be lovely? I can almost taste the dark sweet juice. Oh summer! You are a long ways off yet, but these days tantalize us all.

I'm hoping to be out in the garden this weekend, planting a few seeds, pulling a lot of weeds, and doing a little more basking in the sun. The housework - well, it will get done, too. Some of it. 

What's on your agenda for the weekend? 

Linking with Amy of Love Made My Home for Five on Friday.  

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-...