Thursday, November 30, 2017

How to Slow Down

A hallmark of current life is busyness. A frequent reply to "How are you?" is "so busy." We try to pack a lot into our days. When we add in special celebrations, such as Christmas and Hanukkah, the busy factor ramps up to what can become frenzy. Sometimes I think we wear busyness as a badge of honour. 

I'm no exception - there's always far more that I'd like to do than there is time or energy. And I'm learning the value of slowing down. I'm not a "fix-it" kind of person, but here are some things that help me. 

1. Wake up slowly. Our alarm clock goes off at 6:30. I try to make my first conscious thought one of gratitude to God for the day ahead. Then I lie in bed for 5-10 minutes, sometimes talking with my husband, sometimes semi-conscious. Leaping out of bed in the morning has never been my usual style. 

2. Eat slowly. I tend to be a fast eater. Consciously putting my fork down between bites and taking more time is beneficial both for enjoying the moment and for eating less. 

3. Walk more slowly. I'm a fast walker, whether in the shopping mall, through the halls at school, or out getting exercise. When I feel like I've got too much on my plate, and there's just too much to do, instead of going more quickly, I deliberately slow my pace. This has the effect of calming my mind.

4. Get outside. Fresh air, even when it's cold and wet, both invigorates and calms me. I saw a brief clip on television recently about a doctor giving a prescription for "eco-therapy" to someone who suffered from stress and depression. The prescription included listening, observing, and breathing. 

5. Check out for a few minutes, when possible. Reading is the way I escape. In a rather backwards logic, I discovered years ago that when I was hurried and didn't feel like I'd ever catch up, taking 30-60 minutes to read a novel caused a mental retreat and regrouping that was always beneficial. When my children were small, I rested and read during their naps and quiet times. Invaluable! 

I don't pretend to have all the answers. Do you have ways to cope with busyness? Do share.   

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Little Bit of Christmas Beginning

The new kitchen area fireplace is now finished and Tim says I can begin adding decorative bits to the mantel. Flooring will be done at a later date. I went through my photos and ordered an enlargement from a photo taken this past summer, to frame and hang above the mantel.

Until that happens, I put a touch of Christmas cheer on the mantel. Evergreen bits were collected along our walk this afternoon, blown down from the trees during windstorms, taken home and soaked in vinegar and water to remove any bugs, then arranged here and there. 

There's nothing like volunteering to host a large party to make one look at one's home with a critical eye. 

Pot holders and hot mitts tend to show wear and tear quickly, so I bought a couple of new ones that I'll use the night of the party for the first time. While looking for the pot holders, I spied the racks of Christmas-themed tea towels and succumbed to temptation. The bird print is a dark grey-green. 

I was away overnight Thursday for a professional development conference on the mainland. "Taking Making into the Classroom" was the topic. It wasn't quite what I'd expected and I'm still thinking about how I might incorporate some of the ideas into teaching modern languages, if at all.

While picking up a few groceries on Saturday afternoon, I noticed the fresh green wreaths on sale, so I picked one up. I hung it on the door and will add a bow to it soon. Saturday was a rather slow day - good after being away. We slept in a little, ate a leisurely breakfast, and I puttered away at a few things here at home without feeling the need to do too much. 

Our weather has been quite dreary. Mostly grey and rainy, with a few most welcome sunny breaks here and there. The forecast for next week looks much the same. It's good weather for sitting by the fire and reading. I re-read Winter Solstice once again, delighting in the descriptions of being snowed in, of good food, better company, and sympathetic characters. I have a couple more December books that I'm hoping to dip into once again. 

As I write I hear the rain spitting against the glass and the wind moaning around the corner of the house. A cup of tea is to hand, along with a mandarin orange whose citrus scent speaks of Christmas past and present. 

After the last swallow of tea, it will be time to prepare dinner: today a pork tenderloin with mushrooms, cauliflower gratin and roasted butternut squash. 

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Working Ahead

The awareness that Christmas is less than 5 weeks away startled me this week. The calendar is already filling with celebrations big and small. Feasting is a traditional part of celebrating Christ's birth, and sharing with others. 

This year, we are hosting a gathering of work colleagues on the 15th of December and I'm planning ahead. It will be an Appetizer and Wine evening. My lists are made and this past weekend, I began cooking a few things ahead. Some items will be purchased, but I like to make as much as I can. 

When I posted a photo of the empanadas on Instagram, I was asked for the recipe and for other make-ahead savoury items. I like to bake, not just sweets, but savoury treats to have on hand during the holidays.

All of the recipes above have been tested by Yours Truly and I can vouch that they are delicious. The links will take you to my recipe blog. 

On the top row:
Gougeres, aka Cheese Puffs
Stuffed Mushrooms 
Bacon and Date Snacks

On the bottom row, from the left:
Sage and Ginger Mixed Nuts
Empanadas (Pastry filled with beef and spices)
Rosemary Parmesan Coins (make the dough ahead and freeze it, thaw for 30 minutes at room temperature, then slice and bake) 

On another front, Saturday called for rain mixed with sun, and Tim thought he'd get the Christmas lights up during the sunny times. As it turned out, there was little rain, so he not only put up the lights, but washed the windows (hooray) and the front of the house. It all looks so great!

The birds seem to like bathing even on these chilly days. It's fun to watch them splashing and fluttering.

Although Saturday was good for outside work, on Sunday it rained all day. We went to see Murder on the Orient Express in the afternoon. It's a gorgeous film with stunning scenery, a luxurious set, and a struggle for justice. I loved it! 

I'd like to say Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers! Enjoy the turkey and the pie, but most of all, enjoy the blessings of family and friends. Thanks be to God!

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

Rambling On

Friday morning. The end of a busy couple of weeks. Report cards were due this week and there is a huge sigh of relief when the grades and comments are finally submitted. Done! 

Another thing that's done is most of the autumn colour. Those glowing red maple leaves are sparse on the trees and soon the last one will fall, whirled away by the howling wind and lashing rain we've been experiencing. 

This paler version of leaves in the woods is now more dominant. With all the dreary weather, I've been feeling paler, too. One morning sunshine streamed in the windows to lift my energy. I seem to accomplish much more when there is sunshine, do you?

Christmas is not far away. I'm in favour of a slow run-up to celebrating the season. Anticipation and soul preparation are enhanced, for me, by waiting a little. So I watch what goes on around me, and I stand back, thinking, hoping, planning. 

Last night I finished up two soft and pretty flannel nightgowns for two grand girls. A pair of cozy pajamas is on my worktable for the grand boy. What fun it is to prepare in this way. 

Our new fireplace is taking shape. Tim framed it in, applied cement board, then stone to the surround, and drywall above. For the past two weeks there hasn't been much point in dusting, so I didn't. That will need to be done now that the primer coat is on, and the wall will be painted this weekend. He's working on a mantel, too, a live edge piece of maple. I think it will be lovely.

I signed up for an online course (free) from Future Learn, called "The History of Royal Food and Feasting" from the University of Reading in the UK. The first week was all about Tudor times, focusing on Henry VIII. This past week looked at Queen Elizabeth I's reign. I'm finding the course extremely interesting. Recipes are provided for participants to try. Above is a photo of my attempt at a Tudor "Tarte Owt of Lente." 

The "Tart out of Lent" is so-named because it contains many of those ingredients forbidden during Lent - butter, cheese, cream, eggs. Another participant mentioned that she makes these tarts frequently as part of her job at an historic site. She suggested that some onion marmalade or mustard adds to the deliciousness of the cheese and cream. So I added a layer of onion jam to the crust before putting in the cheese mixture. It's not really like a quiche because the tart is lidded, and because it's not eggy at all, but very cheesy. And delicious. It didn't last very long around here. 

This is the book I'm currently reading. Victoria's Castles - a bit of local history. I'm out of fiction just now, although I just re-read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, one of my favourite books. Do you re-read books? I find them comforting. In spite of knowing the end of the story, I still delight in the characters' thoughts and actions.

I'll leave my ramblings here, for now. The sun is shining in the desperately-needs-washing window and I have a pair of little boy pajamas I'd like to make progress on before going to teach my afternoon classes. 

Are you beginning Christmas preparations? I'd love to hear. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Fading Autumn

In Rithet's Bog, one of our favourite places to walk, the colour is fading. The brilliant yellow, gold, and red leaves fall to the ground and become dull. Soon grey and brown will dominate the landscape in austere architecture.

Red-winged blackbirds alight onto exploded rushes that sway back and forth. 

Rain fills the bog once again and the ducks return, swimming placidly among the weeds. 

A few wigeon pairs have appeared amongst the mallards. They all seem to get along well. 

An awkward skein of ducks alight on a sunny day. They circle, then land, forward thrusting feet acting as brakes on the water. 

A family walk around the bog yesterday. The three-year old perches on Grandpa's shoulders. Two paths intersect and the train-loving boy calls out, "Junction!" The girl cousins run ahead for a bit, then fall behind and run to catch up, legs pedalling like windmills. They pick "woodland bouquets" along the path for their mothers. 
By the end of the walk, I'm certain that the children have covered twice the distance of the adults. They finish up with a train formed by holding hands: smallest to biggest, with Grandpa included. 

It was good that we walked yesterday. Today the rain fell off and on most of the afternoon. It was a good day to stay indoors. I read and puttered and took a nap. Tomorrow is a statutory holiday here, in lieu of Remembrance Day falling on a Saturday. 

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

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Teacup Exchange

It was lovely to receive a parcel in the mail from Sharon, in Ontario with many pretty things, including the teacup above. It's from Paragon, with pink and blue bachelor's buttons on it. I love the shape and the colours. 

I'm a firm believer that tea tastes best from a bone china mug or teacup. Do you think the material of the cup makes a difference?

Here are some of the other things Sharon included: pretty vintage crocheted items, embroidered linens, lovely pink candles, and a great selection of teas that I'm trying out. 

Thank you so much, Sharon. Sharon doesn't have a blog, so I hope she reads this. I've sent a thank you note in the mail, as well. 

Stephanie, from The Enchanting Rose, organizes a teacup exchange one or two times per year. I think around 200 ladies took part this time. That's a lot of organizing. Thanks, Stephanie. If you click on the link, you'll be taken to a page where you can see the exchanges from all over the world.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

A Week of Contrast

Unusually warm sunshine for the end of October began our week. My eldest daughter and I enjoy birthdays just two days apart and we try to go out for coffee or lunch together during this time. 
This year, we went to Butchart Gardens for a walk and then enjoyed scones and tea in the coffee shop.

I wondered if we would see any dahlias. Yes, indeed. They were still their in all their glowing colour. We were just in time, though, for I noted a wheelbarrow filled with cut plants and tubers. The lifting out has begun. 

Dahlias are so varied. It's almost the end of the fall flowers now and we watched gardeners planting bucket fulls of spring bulbs. One gardener threw them over the beds, letting them fall where they may, while others followed and dug the bulbs in with long-handled tools.

I planted bulbs in my own garden last Saturday. What a hopeful thing it is to place dry brown bits into the ground, and cover them up, trusting that they will transform into beautiful flowers in a few months. First, however, they, and we, must pass the winter season.  

We had an unexpectedly early taste of winter this week, too. The temperature dropped to below freezing and the snow began to fall. I was glad to spend time drinking tea while toasting myself by the fire. 

Today the sun returned, but the temperature continues low. A good day to bake a cake and use the copper beating bowl Tim gave me for my birthday. In an odd bit of happy coincidence, my youngest daughter gave me a set of copper measuring spoons. The two givers didn't consult each other, nor had I mentioned a desire for copper items.

I baked a pumpkin chiffon cake and it turned out well, light and airy with a delicate pumpkin flavour. I put the recipe on my other blog. Here's a link. Copper is supposed to give egg whites an edge on beating up. 

Sunshine to snow to rain and back to sunshine. What will this week hold? 

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

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Into November We Go

On Sunday afternoon (after our tea at the Abkhazi Garden mentioned in the previous post), we met up with our eldest daughter and her family for a walk. 

This is the time of year when Pacific Salmon return to their birthplace to spawn the next season's fish, and then die. 

Tall cedar and maple trees line the banks of the Goldstream River. They crowd out the sun and dapple the light on the water. Occasionally, looking up through a clearing, one sees the burnished shades of autumn against the blue sky.

The salmon run is late this year, and although we saw a number of dark silvery fish hanging out in quiet deep pools, they have not yet laid their eggs nor turned red and begun to die. 

Leaves drifted and swirled down from the trees along the pathways, mesmerizing to watch. They came singly at times, or in great flurries when a breeze passed through the branches. 

Here's the November 1st birthday girl hiding behind a big leaf. (edited to add - My birthday is at the end of October; our daughter's on the first of November.)
The golden days of October shifted dramatically with the turning of the calendar to November. Sun and warmth have given way to chilly temperatures, wind, and cold rain, with snow at higher elevations. Most unusual this early. A portent of things to come? We'll see.

How are things in your corner at the beginning of November? 

Days at Home

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