Thursday, January 31, 2019

Five for Friday, at the end of January

Schools here began Semester 2 this week. Both of my classes (I teach part time) are in the afternoon, a change from last semester where one was in the morning and one after lunch. I'm finding a wonderful spaciousness of time in having my mornings free. This semester I'm teaching Spanish 10 and Foods 8, an introduction to cooking. 

The flame-coloured tulips brightened the room for almost two weeks, then drooped and began to dry. I left them on the windowsill because I enjoy watching the petals curl and twist. This particular bloom seems to have been swaying to music and just stopped in position. They've now been relegated to the compost bin. 

Two loaves - date and banana cooling on the counter last weekend. I asked Tim which one I should wrap and freeze, and he chose the banana. Date loaf is his favourite. It's mostly gone now. 

These are the books I've been dipping in and out of this week. I finished The Chilbury Ladies' Choir last night - a thoroughly enjoyable read set in the south of England in the first year of World War II. The two cookbooks are from the library and I hope to spend some time with them this coming weekend. The poet Mary Oliver passed away recently. Her question "What will you do with your one wild and precious life?" along with her amazing capacity for imagery based on the natural world captivated me years ago. 

Two other books I've read recently, in very different genres, are Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, and Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. Indian Horse is the story of a young First Nations boy taken from his family and culture and put into a residential school. It's not easy to read, and I wept several times while reading it. It's simply and elegantly written, with flicks of humour that save it from being depressing.

Left Neglected tells the story of a young woman, busy with family and a career path who suffers a brain injury that "completely erases the left side of her world. Without an awareness of the food on the left side of her plate or even her own left hand, she is forced to search for answers in the void of this strange hemi-world..." Left neglected is a medical condition that I previously knew nothing about. I found the protagonist, Sarah, somewhat unlikable at first, but I became more sympathetic to her as the story progressed.  

January is a particularly good month to drink tea, just like all of the other 11 months. I pulled out an old teapot and cups the other night. I bought this in Ecuador; the pottery is from there, although I believe the designs are from Europe. 

I'm binding another quilt in the evenings. I started well, but have left it for a few days - I'll get back to it this weekend. At the same time, I've started sewing a skirt for myself and hope to finish that soon, now that I have time in the mornings to accomplish a few things. 

While most of Canada has experienced intense cold this week, we've continued with mild days and mostly blue skies with a few clouds. Yesterday afternoon, while walking, I noticed grey sweeps across the blue and white, signalling a change in the air. This morning is dull and rain is forecast. More exciting is the possibility of snow early next week. I do enjoy a bit of snow and hope that we will see some of the white stuff! That's not a universally popular opinion here on the west coast. 

Now, shall I read or sew for the next couple of hours before going to school? How lovely to have a choice. Stay warm and cozy in the winter freeze. 

Linking with Friday Bliss hosted by Riitta of Floral Passions. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Creativity in the Woods

On a walk in the woods today with our local family, I thought about creativity. One definition is "the use of the imagination or original ideas..." 

There are plenty of original ideas in the woods. Moss and lichens, for instance. Such intricate handwork designed by the Creator. 

Along the trail someone had collected and propped up a line of sticks. A creative child? A whimsical and creative adult? Whoever did it, I imagine they had a lot of fun. 

One family brought along a bag of rocks they had painted and hid them along the trail for others to find. It's part of the Sooke to Sidney Rock Hunt. 

An enormous hollow cedar tree sparked all sorts of creative play. Scattered sticks and branches were collected for a fire, which was then used to...

toast chocolate-covered pretzels, followed by an "campfire dance". 

 Here's another photo to give an idea of the size of this tree. Although the day was grey, and the woods rather gloomy, everyone had a wonderful time.

Woods. Beach. Backyard. Lots of scope for the imagination, as Anne Shirley would say. Creativity isn't only about making something tangible, like a quilt, a meal, or a painting, but about the way we see the world. I sometimes (often) chafe at not being able to sew or garden or draw as much as I'd like to. (I love my job, too) So I try to look at, and experience the world around me as full of possibility, the way children often do.   

Raindrops caught in hanging moss. So lovely. 

An old VW lies rusting not too far off the path. Who left it there? How did it get there? Why? So many questions left unanswered as we walked away from it. I later spent some time editing the photo with a watercolour filter. Fun for me, and an opportunity to play a little. Creativity and play go hand in hand, don't you think? 

What do you think about creativity? How do you experience the world?

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf.  

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Of Snowdrops, Lemon Pie, and the Moon

"Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year, for gardening begins in January, with the dream." 
Josephine Neuse

Unlike most of Canada, we on the west coast are experiencing an extremely mild winter. So mild that yesterday I went out and did a little gardening. Just some tidying up of pots - my geraniums are still green and I cut them back as they were looking scraggly. As I pottered about inspecting here and there, I noticed sharp pointed green shoots jutting from the earth, soon to be flowering bulbs. Snowdrops glow bright against the dark soil; no snow here this year. I picked a bunch for the kitchen windowsill. 

On this afternoon's walk around Rithet's Bog, I took a couple of photos and then my battery died. Poor planning on my part. It was lovely to see blue sky. The wind was sharp and I was glad for a jacket I could zip up to keep my neck warm. 

Home just in time to enjoy a piece of the Lemon Sour Cream pie I referred to in last week's post. A regular-sized piece for him, a narrow piece for me. How delicious it was!

Lemons and tulips - surely spring can't be far away!

Tonight we witnessed the Lunar Eclipse of the Wolf Moon. My camera struggled to focus, but managed to capture a few shots of the progression. I balanced the camera on the roof of my car and noticed that frost was already beginning to form. It's going to be chilly tonight. Did you see the eclipse?

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Mid-winter Musings

"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the
touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire; 
it is the time for home." 
Edith Sitwell

I'm sitting on the floor in front of the fire looking out at the blue-patched clouds scudding across the sky. Another rainy front is moving in, but oh my, have we ever enjoyed the recent sunshine. At the end of each day, though, we return home, whether from work or leisure activities. 

January is an appropriate month for home comforts, as Dame Edith Sitwell expressed. Here, copious amounts of tea are drunk, with an occasional hot chocolate indulgence before bedtime. The calendar is mostly empty, and in the evenings we read books, place stitches, and talk about plans for later in the year. 

Tidying up happens in a desultory fashion. The other day I sorted my scarf drawer, refolding the ones that had been tossed in in a hurry, and removing a few that are never worn. 

The pile of linens on the chair above were those used during the holidays, now laundered and either stacked neatly (napkins) or in long folds draped over hangers in an upstairs closet (tablecloths). I learned to store them that way from my mom and it certainly aids in lessening wrinkles. 

I keep a fairly deep pantry. My daughter-in-law once said that in case of an emergency she's bringing her family here because there would always be something to eat. Each year I freeze berries and produce and now is the time to ensure that it all gets eaten. 

A couple of times a year I announce that we will be "living off the hump" referring to the fat stored in a camel's hump that enables it to live when food is scarce. I think I read that in a book by Peg Bracken many years ago. I try to whittle down the freezer contents and make sure that I'm using the staples in my cupboards. The other day I made a peach-blackberry cobbler for friends using frozen fruit. 

Grocery shopping consists mostly of fresh foods like citrus, so sweet and juicy just now. I made a lemon loaf last weekend, and this weekend I think I'll put together a Sour Cream Lemon Pie from a recipe on Brenda's blog. I also hope to make some Lemon Curd and freeze it in small jars to pull out when needed. 

Our winter has been extremely mild thus far and the Swiss Chard and kale are thriving. I picked a bunch of chard and made a rustic bean dip with it. I portion it in half-pint jars and take it to school for lunch, to eat with cucumber slices and wedges of sweet bell peppers. Some of the chard will go into a soup I'm making tonight. 

A year or so ago I purchased some Tilda fabric, along with a book of Tilda projects. I've done little with the fabric and since one of my intentions this year is to be more creative, I started small with this cushion cover. The piecing went together in a couple of Saturday afternoon hours, and the rest in small chunks of time here and there. Now a little cottage in the woods rests on the bed and makes me smile to see it. 

The Granny Square quilt I began a couple of years ago is now finished. Choosing the fabrics, cutting the squares, and sewing them together is the fun part of quilting for me. When it comes down to the actual sandwich part of quilting, I procrastinate. Recently, however, my sister and her daughter purchased a long-arm quilting machine. My mom is an expert quilter and while here in September volunteered to get two tops ready for quilting. She cut the batting and backing and sandwiched them together for quilting, took them to the mainland and gave them to my niece. Yay! All that was left for me to do was cut and stitch the binding. I enjoy the last step of hand stitching the binding to the back. There is great satisfaction in having another project finished.

This is turning into a very long post. I'll tell you about a couple of books I read recently later. Now I'll leave you with a bright bouquet of tulips that are cheering up the dining room. Pops of colour in January are most welcome, don't you think? 

Linking with Friday Bliss, hosted by Riitta of Floral Passions.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Where is Winter?

The question in the title might be a moot point for some of you, but here on the west coast, we are enjoying a very warm winter due to a strong El NiƱo system. We've had a lot of gloomy rainy days followed by sunny bright ones. On the sunny days we head outdoors. 

On Saturday afternoon we walked up Christmas Hill for a view of our city. Across the Strait to the south the white peaks of the Olympic Peninsula of our neighbours formed a line across the horizon. To the west, Mount Baker, also in the USA, glowed as the sun dipped low and a faint moon stood out against the darkening sky. 

On Sunday afternoon the good weather took us to the waterfront along Dallas Drive, along with many other walkers out to enjoy the sunshine. It's not that warm, really, 10-12 degrees Celsius, but we saw several people barefoot on the beach, others in shorts, and one hardy young man swimming! He was in the water for a very long time, it seemed to me, and he strolled out, not rushing for a blanket or towel as I would have done. 

The caption of this photo might be "The one that got away" for the crab wriggled mightily and eventually escaped despite the desperate grab of the gull's beak.

At Clover Point pigeons flew dark against the eastern sky, then wheeled and circled to the west where the light illuminated their wings. A single male pigeon alighted on a lamp post and was soon joined by a female pigeon. Immediately, the male began showing off. He jumped onto the green bit on top of the lamp, turned round and round, bobbed his head up and down, and tried desperately to impress the lady. She seemed very unimpressed, and if pigeons could yawn, she would have. After a bit, the male gave up and just stood there, head to the wind, perhaps thinking of his next tactic.

“Surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a wintry fireside; candles at four o'clock, warm hearthrugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies to the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.” 
― Thomas De Quincey

After we arrived home I made a lemon loaf and we had tea and cake. Delicious and restorative, beside the fire, even on a sunny afternoon! 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf. 

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Taking Advantage of Weather Breaks

"In every walk with nature one received far more than he seeks." John Muir

Before the light faded (does it seem like it's a wee bit lighter later to you?) we set out for a tramp around the Bog. When entering the path, there's a choice to make, left or right. We usually choose left so that we can dawdle towards the end of walk and watch the ducks. Our choice of left didn't take us very far. Above is the path flooded by all the heavy rain we've been having. So we turned around the other way, walked to about the mid point of the trail and back again, allowing us two chances to observe the bird life on the open water.

It was a busy place, with mallards, American wigeons, Canada geese, and a coot or two. The sky was grey and overcast, but the rain held off until later in the evening. 

Rain and wind in the night were followed by hail in the morning, and very overcast skies on our drive to church. What a lovely surprise to see blue skies and bright sunshine when we came out. One little boy, about 2, said, "I should have worn my sunglasses." 

We decided to take advantage of the break in the weather and quickly changed and drove to Tod Inlet.

 Although the woods obscure most of the light, when the sun filtered through it rendered the forest a most magical place, full of sparkle and amazing detail, like the moss above. 

The creek feeding the inlet rushes along these days, collecting all sorts of muddy debris which it deposits into the inlet, turning the water distinctly green. 

Someone decorates a tree there every Christmas, and a few ornaments remained, along with strings of delectable seeds and pods for the birds to nibble on. 

"Beauty surrounds us" says Rumi, who continues on to say, "but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it." Or perhaps the woods. 

After our walk, we went to the Seahorse Cafe on the water for lunch. I enjoyed a salad and warming French Onion Soup. Tim had a small bowl of Coconut Chicken Curry soup and a Mediterranean Chicken Wrap. Yum. 

As we sat in the bright light next to the window, we watched the clouds gather on the mountains, then drift downwards to the water and move across the inlet to drop fat raindrops and obscure the landscape. How pretty the boats, canoes, and other brightly painted bits and pieces looked in both sunshine and shadow.

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Angie of Letting Go of the Bay Leaf. 

Thursday, January 03, 2019

These Quiet Days

January 3. A new year. It began quietly for us, with a cheese fondue, a movie, and bed before midnight, although the fireworks awakened us then. I've not done much thinking about intentions or goals for 2019, but then I rarely do. Do you? My take on resolutions is that if something needs to be done, I'm not going to wait until a new year dawns. 

The house is quiet; the only sound is the rain dripping on the skylight. A fire glows and spreads its welcome warmth. Outside is dark and wet. I sit in a pool of light in the living room, toasting my feet and sipping tea.

In between the many periods of rain, chickadees, house finches (shown), spotted towhees, dark-eyed juncos, and sparrows visit the bird feeder. How they squabble among themselves. Very entertaining.  

Two small girls and my eldest daughter came by yesterday. We set up the craft table and let the little girls at it. They crafted all manner of interesting things. I had thought to inspire them to make little alligators and they were quite excited it about it, but while waiting for the green paint to dry, they became involved in creating more free form items, so we left them to it, not wanting to nip their enthusiasm in the bud. In the end I finished up the alligators and they took them home. 

Alligator inspirations. 

I've had a couple of quilt tops stitched for some time, but have procrastinated on the quilting part. I don't enjoy that. Recently, my sister and niece purchased a long arm quilting machine, so I gave them two tops to quilt. Yesterday and today I cut and sewed the binding onto the tops and am now enjoying hand sewing the binding to the back side. It's very cozy having a quilt over the knees in this weather. 

I finished my first book of 2019. It did not disappoint. Inspector Gamache and the town of Three Pines are as irresistible as ever.

Penny references Rupert Brooke's poem "The Great Lover" in the novel, in which the poet makes a list of the things he's loved in his life. 

These I have loved:
         White plates and cups, clean-gleaming,
Ringed with blue lines; and feathery, faery dust;
Wet roofs, beneath the lamp light; the strong crust 
Of friendly bread; and many-tasting food;
Rainbows; and the blue bitter smoke of wood;....

Penny's character, Gamache makes a list of his own beloved things that help to ease his mind in difficult situations. I've been thinking of the things that I love. In a way, acknowledging them is a form of gratitude, and I find that being thankful also eases my mind. 

In spite of the rain outside, I have a few errands to run, so I'd better bundle up and get out there. 

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-...