Sunday, March 26, 2017

Time for Tea

The first week of Spring Break is over. It was a mixture of mostly pleasant and a bit of unpleasant, the latter including a dental appointment. How I dread even a cleaning appointment. All those sharp instruments. The feeling of helpless vulnerability. It's over for another six months and I'm relieved.

I haven't had as much time to relax as I thought I would. Several appointments, and fun time with family filled the days. Finding balance can be a challenge. There's so much possibility, but limited energy and time. 

Our visit to Butterfly World (previous post) and a tea party on Friday were the highlights of the week. 

Three adults watched three little ones enjoy their tea. The girls dressed up; one with a crown and her Easter dress, the other with a sparkly dress complete with a jewel. The sole male at the event wore the cutest blue jean overalls. 

What fun to have tea, just a little, with lots of milk added, and sugar lumps! Stir, stir, stir. Sip, sip, sip.  

Scones with jam and whipped cream, simple savories including cheese and crackers and peanut butter banana sandwiches, deviled eggs, and a few vegetables meant that there was something to please everyone.

This week flew by and there was little time for blogging. Next week will be the same. Finding balance. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

There and Back Again in No Time

The double set of glass doors closes behind me and I am met by a rush of warm humid air. A long dormant recess in my brain leaps to attention. Neurons begin firing and in a millisecond I am transported in time and space to Chupientsa, a tiny village in the Ecuadorian jungle.

Tim and I, with our young daughter, along with Tim's brother and his wife, are staying with friends, an older couple from our mission. I am 6 months pregnant. 

Our friends tell us about a beautiful waterfall and we make plans to visit. They look at my protruding belly and say, "The trail is not long, but it's steep." 

Forewarned, I decide to accompany the group. 

The trail downwards is almost hidden, covered by dense green growth. A thick strong rope, tied securely to a tree, marks the beginning of the descent. I rely on the rope to keep me from slipping on the damp leaves and skidding to the invisible bottom. Tim precedes me, ready to stop any fall. 

We reach the floor of the small canyon. Far above, only the smallest bits of blue sky appear through the lacy ceiling of foliage. At one end, a waterfall, maybe 50 feet tall, splashes into a round pool and fills the air with cool mist. 

Ralph picks his way along the side of the pool and we follow, balancing from rock to rock until we arrive on a narrow ledge that continues behind the waterfall. We stand listening to the steady thunder of falling water. Our view is a watery blur of colour and light.

Returning back along the ledge to the open space that seems like a large emerald room, each of us explores individually, calling occasionally across the din of water. We peer into pools of water, examine flowers, and marvel at the wonder of the Amazon jungle.

I find a smooth flat rock, remove my shoes, and dangle my feet in the water, content to sit and absorb the scene. A flicker of blue catches my eye. A Blue Morpho flutters by. When open, its iridescent wings are a striking contrast in this green world. I watch, transfixed, as it floats around the canyon, flashing blue. 

Then, once again, time whirls and I am a grandmother accompanying my three grandchildren, one a daughter of the tiny girl who flew into that jungle setting (but didn't go down into the canyon), and the other two, children of the babe I carried in my womb, to Butterfly World, just 15 minutes away from my home on Vancouver Island.  

 Blue Morphos fluttered around Butterfly World, but they are notoriously difficult to photograph. When I felt, ever so lightly, a butterfly alight on the top of my head, my granddaughter told me it was a Blue Morpho. I felt blessed. Memory is a powerful thing.

There were many other butterflies willing to have their photos taken yesterday, along with turtles, tortoises, a macaw, a parrot, flamingos and other creatures, including poison dart frogs from, you guessed it, the Ecuadorian jungle. I'm glad I didn't see any of those that day so long ago! 

We had a fun time, my daughter and I, with the three little ones. The world is full of marvelous things to explore. It's spring break this week and next, and I'm thoroughly enjoying time to relax and visit. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Walk Followed by Cake

Pink is coming! Such a welcome colour, and late to the party this year.

Saturday afternoon was the day set for an early celebration of Tim's birthday. The Vancouver couple were over for the weekend, but one of the local families was out with the Norwalk virus and they declined spreading it to the rest of us. We missed them, but were happy to miss the virus.

The sun shone in between clouds. A chilly wind bent the grasses and crawled along our necks. But once we got going, we warmed up. 

Auntie and Uncle are a big hit with the littles. In the bottom corner, a three-generation photo with Mister F's short legs stretching as far as possible to keep up with Daddy and Grandpa. 

Bird life on the Bog. Mallards, geese, coots, and more.

There's not a lot of green yet, but the colours and shadows caught my eye and I took this photo. When I looked at it on the computer, I noticed, for the first time, the blue heron against the rushes. Can you spot him?

Zoomed in a little closer. He certainly blends into the background. 

Tim's birthday isn't until the end of the month, but this date worked best (or we thought it would) and so we celebrated this wonderful man is dearly loved. 

Home again for Chinese food, followed by a massive cake. Since I wasn't cooking the main meal, I thought I'd put a little more effort into the cake. An Ultimate Sampler cake, inspired by Sprinkle Bakes. After making her cherry cake and the humming bird cake layers, I switched to my own recipes. The top layer is Chocolate Mousse, which is frozen ahead in order to assemble the cake. The baking all went well, the assembling, not so well. A disaster with the frosting had me racing to the store for ingredients and changing to my own recipe again. 

It was a fun experiment, but I'm not that impressed with the results. I think one or two flavours in a cake are plenty, no need for more. And it's massive. We didn't even eat 1/4 of the cake. I've frozen it in chunks (after scraping the mousse off) and we'll be eating it for a long time. Cake, anyone?

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Yellow is IN!

Sunny yellow. Not my favourite colour, but very welcome these days. 

I peeked under the cloth covering the lemon tree, wondering how the tree had fared during our longer and colder winter. Such delight to see these lemons that slowly ripened in the cold and darkness. They are smaller than usual, but I noticed blossoms and little green lemons on the tree, as well. After picking these, I covered it up again until May or June when the days are reliably warmer.

Two bunches of tight daffodil buds came home with me last weekend. They've opened into a cheerful bouquet for the kitchen table. 

As I look out the kitchen window, I see these yellow beauties, miniature daffodils, nodding their pretty heads. Spring is well on her way!

More yellow! The forsythia is getting ready to burst into gold.

I cut some long branches of forsythia for a blue vase from Spain, made from recycled glass, that I recently found. I expect the buds will open this weekend. They don't last long indoors, but are so pretty for a short while. 

What's the IN colour around your place these days?

Linking, for the last time, with Five on Friday, hosted by Amy of Love Made My Home. I've gotten to know quite a number of blogs through this link up, blogs that I now follow. Thank you, Amy!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Dragging Forward

It's that time of year when clocks everywhere are set an hour ahead while our bodies wonder what on earth is going on. It seems so illogical. I admire our Saskatchewan province for sticking to their guns and not going along with it for all these years. 

There's more leaping ahead going on in the garden. Our cold spell lifted slightly and in response, all sorts of things are showing life. Rhubarb unfurls wrinkled leaves, cherry tree buds cluster tightly on branch ends, blueberries look like they might flower, and when I peeked under the cover of the lemon tree, I saw a few buds there, as well. Bring it on, I say!

On a recent walk along the water, a raucous crow had me turn my attention to the trees, and I caught the object of the crow caws, a Great Blue Heron, perched not too far above me. Branches were in the way of good photos, so I asked Tim to take a few shots from his taller vantage point. 

I think herons look like grumpy old men all hunched up, mad at the world, and not afraid to let everyone know it. 

As the crow continued screeching at the heron, the Great Blue stood up, opened his wings, and his beak and looked very menacing. It didn't seem to bother the crow and soon the Great Blue settled down into his hunched up pose again. 

Moss is pretty, I think. 
Moss is a nuisance, Tim thinks. 
While he plots against it, I'm happy to photograph its intricacies. I don't think its going anywhere anytime soon.

Are you seeing signs of spring? Or is it all over already? 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life.  

Thursday, March 09, 2017

While I Wait for Spring

While I wait for spring, winter weather lingers long past its "best by" date. While I wait, I walk, bundled up against the wind and rain, and discover spring shades lurking behind bare bushes. Heather is blooming, and the shrubs themselves are bursting with colour, too impatient to wait for leaves.

While I wait for spring, I eat. Too much sometimes. I had a hankering for hardboiled eggs this week and then wondered what to do with them. I decided to slice them, top them with a drizzle of heavy cream, some grated Swiss cheese, and a sprinkling of parsley before heating them briefly in the oven. Quite yummy, they were.

While I wait for spring, I read. I'm going to do a book club unit in English 9 and ordered 6 each of a number of books. They arrived at school yesterday and I brought one of each set home with me. I finished Paper Hearts, a story of friendship born out of shared suffering in the death camps of the Holocaust; and am half way through All My Noble Dreams and Then What Happens. These are young adult novels, historical fiction, and take place around the world - India, Alaska, Germany, Austria, France, England. This is one of the best parts of teaching - reading!

While I wait for spring, I sew. Slowly. Seventeen granny quilt squares are complete. I think I'll make a 4 x 5 quilt, big enough for a twin bed, so I have a few more blocks to go. I'll make some extras, because when I look at them all together, there are a couple that might not make the cut into the final quilt.

While I wait for spring, I buy tulips. This time, a pot for the porch. They brighten my going out and my coming in. They give me hope that the tulips poking their spiky leaves from the dark ground will soon be as cheery.

Are you waiting for spring, or autumn? How are you putting in the waiting time?

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

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Mosaic Monday: The Tower of London

While looking through my blog book (see the previous 2 posts), I realized that I hadn't shared a few sights from our trip last summer. So, let's pay a very quick visit to the Tower of London.

We walked along the opposite side of the Thames River for our first glimpse of this massive place. I could hardly believe I was there, in this place where so much history occurred. I've read history books and historical fiction since I was a child, and much of it was English. 

The building with the four towers in the photo is the White Tower, built in 1080 by William the Conqueror as a royal residence. Subsequent kings added to it. 

From the river, many prisoners entered the Tower via this entrance, now blocked up. What fear they must have felt going into this prison, knowing that the likelihood of their release was minimal, and highly dependent upon the whim of the current monarch. Among them two young queens - Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey (the Nine-day Queen). Anne Boleyn most likely entered through another gate.

The Tower sprawls over 12 acres of land (5 hectares) and encompasses residential housing for the Yeomen Warders, who guard the Tower. 

Yeoman Warder Towell gave a great tour of the Tower. He is a wealth of information and kept us all moving through the grounds. 

One thing I learned was that very few executions took place within the Tower walls. Most occurred on a mound outside the walls. However, the three queens previously mentioned, along with a few other unfortunate souls, were beheaded within the walls, privately, and this glass memorial marks the spot. 

 These bodies (and heads) were then immediately interred in the floor of The Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula without memorials. In the 19th century their remains were interred in the crypt. It is a solemn place to enter, and respectful quiet must be maintained. 

After the tour, we wandered about the walls and encountered this brave knight, about to take part in a reenactment. He is wearing chain mail. I asked him how much it weighed and he guessed about 50 pounds! That's weight-bearing exercise for you!

These charming little patios, seen from the inner wall, belong to the Yeomen Warders who live on the grounds. 

We saw much, much more, including the magnificent Crown Jewels. If you ever get to London, the Tower is a must. History echoes in every stone. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life. 

Saturday, March 04, 2017

On Printing a Blog

A number of commentators expressed interest in how I had my blog printed into a book. Here's a fast rundown of how I did it. 

The company I used is Blog2Print. It's an American company, so the price was in US dollars. It crossed the border without incident. The blog book was pulled from the internet, with very little effort on my part. 

One minor hiccup occurred - About the time I thought my book should be arriving, I received an email from a kind woman, Jen, in the southern states who had received a copy of the book. She found my email address through the blog. Any of her attempts to contact the company to let them know were useless.

I contacted them, and they said to check the tracking number given, and that the book was on the way. I did, assuming that they had sent another book. No. They hadn't. So I contacted them again, and they printed another copy and sent it off. They also gave me a discount for all the hassle. 

For this first book, I went with the basics - medium sized photos, hardcover with a dust jacket. You can see that the layout isn't all that artistic. The pages are 8 1/2 x 11, printed on a medium weight glossy paper. The colours are great. The book is 212 pages. No comments, although I believe you can get them included as well. 

I also chose the Compact (default) layout. Thus, the photos do not line up with the text, the way they do in blog posts. Sometimes I'll write, "in the above photo" to explain something, but in the book, the text does not necessarily fit. For me, that's okay, although I'm planning to go through the book with a pen and explain a few things. 

It's possible to choose another layout that will use more pages, but keep the photos and text layout as it appears on the blog. I will likely do that next time, and make the photos larger.

While writing this post, I've been creating my second book, for 2015. However, I just received a message saying that I posted 1391 photos that year, and the maximum number per book is 1150. They recommend narrowing the date range and creating 2 books in place of one. I may do that.

It's also possible to delete certain posts and photos. I'm still learning as I go along. I'd like to figure out how to have some photos large and some medium.

I hope this is of use to some of you. I'm sure there must be other companies that do this, so if you know of any, mention it in the comments. And if you have any more questions, I'll be happy to try and answer them.  

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Five on Friday: Little Things

 "I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things...I play with leaves. I skip down the street and run against the wind." (Leo Buscaglia)

We had snow again this week. So unusual. But since it comes so seldom and stays for so short a time, we might as well enjoy it. I know that I did. My hyacinths were almost ready for the compost heap, but I posed them on the snow for a chilly blue and white photo.

I try to read every day. I don't count reading on line. I like to sink into a book and lose myself, for even a little bit of time. Reading is as good as taking a nap for refreshment. 

I've read all of P.D. James' detective novels (I think). She died over two years ago, but in 1999, she published a "fragment of autobiography"; a diary she kept for one year. I found it fascinating. What broad experiences she had - a BBC Governor, a member of the House of Lords, time with the National Health Service, and work with the police. 

Some things are best written with pencils, freshly sharpened. I like writing lists with pencils, and planning things such as parties, gardens, designs, etc. Things that require organizing seem to suit pencils best. Writing letters or journal entries are done with pens. 

We have a very, very old pencil sharpener that sharpens pencils better than any of the electric or manual ones at school. I bring my pencils home and sharpen them here to take to work.

Do you prefer pens or pencils? Or do you like them both, for specific tasks?

This book arrived in the mail this week. It's my blog for 2016, in print. I've had fun looking it over and remembering the events. Really, it's a cross between a scrapbook and a diary of sorts. The margins are wide and I plan to add a few notes (in pen) alongside, for clarity. 

A cup of tea and some cookies are a little pick-me-up that's very enjoyable. This week I baked Peanut Butter Cookies. My mother is not a fan of peanut butter and we rarely had peanut butter cookies while growing up. But I like them, although I don't make them very often. 

These are a gluten-free variety, a good recipe to have for those with gluten intolerance (and they seem to be everywhere lately). The sprinkling of sea salt on them adds a wonderful bit of layered flavour. I think they would be good with a drizzle of chocolate, or some chocolate chips in them. 

 Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup natural peanut butter (no added sugar)
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
sea salt, for sprinkling

Mix together the peanut butter and sugar, stir in the egg and vanilla. Combine well. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop the cookie dough by heaping teaspoonfuls onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Bake 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Cool on rack - they will be soft, but firm when cool. 

Five little things that make me happy - how about you? What little things bring you delight?

Linking to Five on Friday, hosted by Amy of Love Made My Home (for a couple more weeks). 

Days at Home

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