Sunday, November 28, 2021



Although the rain fell and the skies were oh, so grey, there was laughter and warmth inside as cousins, aunties and uncles, grandparents, and her immediate family celebrated sweet Cora's first birthday. 

She didn't know quite what to do with the cupcake (made by Auntie Katie), and daintily poked one finger into the icing and licked it. Eventually the icing was eaten and the cake left. She's not had much in the way of sweets until now, and may have missed her chance to indulge. 

Christmas decorating has begun, a little at a time. The first thing to come out is the walnut, hand-carved Nativity from Ecuador. There will be greenery added to the scene, but when the sun made a brave appearance and cast sharp shadows on the figures, I snapped a quick photo. 

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and we light the candle of Hope. Flood waters rise again in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver. A new coronavirus variant begins to spread. Inflation climbs. Refugees flee oppression. Crime rises. For this time we need Hope and celebrate the coming of the Messiah, the Hope of this sad old world. 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Friday Favourites


Last winter I gathered up my scraps of red and white fabrics and stitched together a simple Four-Patch quilt. It languished at home over the summer, and a couple of months ago I took it to a very busy long-arm quilter, asking if it could be done for Christmas. I picked it up this week and am so very happy with it. Lots of swirls in the quilting that offset the geometric pattern of the piecing. All that's left is the binding, and that's a pleasant pastime for quiet evenings. 

I'm clearing away and tidying up in preparation for doing some Christmas decorating soon. This mirror is a recent addition to the fireplace mantel, and I like it more every day. It pairs well with my old brass candlesticks and jug. 

Another house project is a gallery wall on the staircase. I printed 8 x 10 photos of some of our boating images and put them into 11 x 14 gold frames with cream mats. Last night we hung them. Oh, my goodness! The measuring to get it just right! Tim worked as a carpenter for a number of years and is very precise, but even with his skill there are more holes than needed in the wall. I want to add a few more photos to the wall, but am letting it sit for now until I decide what to do. 

Someone is having her first birthday party on Sunday. Cora is such a happy baby and so full of spunk! Although she's not quite walking yet, she crawls very efficiently to get into everything that interests her, mostly things she shouldn't. 

For her birthday I made her a Tilda Giraffe. I named her Raffi and she's sitting in a corner of my chair. The light is not good for photos these days. 

Yesterday, the first of three more "atmospheric rivers" passed through, bringing lots of rain. Everyone here is a wee bit nervous about these systems - will the repaired dykes hold? Will there be more landslides? The province is preparing as best it can. 

Are you beginning to think about Christmas baking? I made these Scandinavian Almond Cookies last weekend, gave some away, and the rest are eaten. They were very good, both crisp and chewy, and would make a nice addition to a cookie plate. 

Today is a break between weather systems and I want to get out and do a little garden tidying and arranging before the next one arrives tomorrow. There's a dessert to make for a dinner party we're attending, and general housekeeping to accomplish. What are your plans for the next day or two? 

Monday, November 22, 2021

Mellow Monday


This scene from yesterday is very different from today's grey streaked, drizzle. We took a walk in the afternoon and even before 2 pm I noticed how low the sun was. The sprawling Garry Oak is without leaves and I like it best like this, with its intricate architecture of gnarled branches silhouetted against the sky. 

Birds of various kinds are flocking to the bird feeder - here a Chestnut-backed Chickadee. 

Since the flooding and landslides of last week, the pipeline providing fuel to our corner of the province has been taken offline until everyone is satisfied that the line wasn't damaged. As a result, we now have gas rationing - a limit of 30 litres per fill-up, on the honour system. On Saturday morning I walked to the closest grocery store for a few things, and saw long, long lineups for gasoline. Tim and his colleagues are still figuring out plans for how healthcare workers will get to their jobs. There are exemptions, but getting it all working efficiently takes time. 

The bright colour of Mr. House Finch is a joy to see on a grey morning. He looks as though he turned around to say, "What's that you said?" to someone on the other feeder. 

The Red-Breasted Nuthatches swoop in for a quick peck at the feeder and then bounce away in their characteristic up and down flight pattern. So cheerful and energetic. A large cedar hedge surrounds two sides of our garden and the birds use it as home base. When a hawk appears, every bird flees to the hedge in a flash. 

With all the wind, many evergreen branches litter roads and trails. I've been collecting a few of them and spent some time yesterday afternoon poking bits and pieces into pots for Christmas decor outdoors. The little bird in the greens is a quiet, contemplative soul, making no noise nor mess. She's not as much fun to watch as the other birds, but I do enjoy seeing her outside the window. 

Sewing is at the top of my list for this week. I've not made much progress on it, and need to focus on getting things finished. What's on your list for this week?

Friday, November 19, 2021

Friday Favourites


Outside my window pale morning light glows along the hills I see beyond the rooftops. Grey clouds drift steadily, but slowly overhead, tinted pink where the light catches them. We filled our bird feeder again, and a host of white-crowned sparrows, chickadees, house finches, and dark-eyed juncos chattered and argued as they vied for a place at the table. The little juncos with their black hoods are such pretty birds and I am always happy to see them appear again in the autumn. 

Here's a report on the flooding. You can skip down if it doesn't interest you, or if you've been inundated (pun intended) with news. 

Yesterday, the rain fell again, but nothing like the atmospheric river we experienced last weekend. Much of my family lives in the affected area, but they are all safe, and although at least one home flooded a little, they are fine. My sister and brother-in-law went home from work early on Monday and have not been able to return because of the highway that is still flooded. My brother is up in Prince George and due to fly home this weekend. He can fly in, but won't make it home, again because of the highway closure. In an area called the Sumas Prairie, more than 1400 farms - mostly dairy and poultry - are still underwater. There have been heart-wrenching stories of farmers working round the clock to save their livestock. 

Highways are still mostly closed although one route opened for essential traffic to allow stranded motorists to return home. Some will go through the US (Washington State) to be able to return east. 

The major east-west highways remain closed, and crews are working day and night to try to open at least one of them to allow essential goods through. 

Have you ever watched the television show "Highway Through Hell"? It's about a vehicle recovery and towing company that works in BC and largely features incidents on the Coquihalla Highway, our major connector to the rest of Canada. That's the highway that has been greatly damaged, with at least five spots where the road has completely washed away, falling into deep river canyons and sweeping away bridges and rail lines. We have been told it will be months before it is repaired. The coming winter, with its heavy snow will be a severe complication. 

All said, it's a catastrophe, affecting not only our province, but much of western Canada. At least 1 fatality has been confirmed, but there are others still missing. 

Many motorists were stranded in the little town of Hope, BC. The townspeople came together and provided blankets, food, and shelter as they were able. At least one church opened its doors for people to sleep on the (fortunately) padded pews. The Salvation Army in Chilliwack prepared boxes and boxes of food that were sent in via helicopter.

Here on the Island, our highway connecting Victoria to the rest of the island was closed. There is a little ferry (about 15 vehicles) that crosses the inlet, and it added sailings throughout the night to allow people to cross. People in the village near the ferry terminal passed out cookies and snacks, along with blankets to those waiting for hours in their cars.

It's these kinds of actions that stir me to tears. People of all walks of life coming together to help each other. If we can act this way in times of crisis, surely we can treat each well all of the time. 

Here at home, life goes on as normal. I cook and sew, clean and read, but in the background there is this awareness of how the same normality has been stripped away from so many. 
When we were in Wales a number of years ago, we toured a manor house where the kitchen dresser was filled with beautiful blue and white dishes from the Burleigh Company. I have gone to the website to look at their dishes, but the cost to purchase and ship to Canada is very high, so I've admired them from afar. 

I was surprised and delighted to find the above plates and bowls at our local Home Sense store and even more surprised when I saw they were manufactured in England. They are from the Royal Wessex company, not Burleigh, but the look is similar. I purchased a variety of plates and bowls. Can anything surpass blue and white? I don't think so. 

A mug of tea (in a blue and white polka-dotted mug given to me by my daughter) along with a seasonal magazine is a lovely way to spend some quiet time in the afternoon. 

Today is another pro-D day for one of my grandchildren and we're going to visit the museum. Maybe we'll have lunch there, too. This weekend I hope to sew more, as the list of things I want to make is growing! 

I hope your weekend is beautiful. Be thankful for the little normal routines. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Thinking of Others, and Abundance


I took this photo on Monday morning as the rain poured down. With the darkness, I needed a flash to avoid blurriness. At one point I looked out from my sewing room window to see huge drops of rain falling sideways in sheets. A cup of tea and a candle served to brighten up the gloom. 

In the afternoon fierce winds blew away the rain and the blue sky shone with loveliness. Many many sections of the Island were without power - one of our daughters was without for about 6 hours, the other for 10. They live close to each other and gathered at the home with a gas stove and fireplace for warmth and dinner. 

This morning the sun slanted in with such brightness, warming the living room and casting strong shadows on the fireplace mantel. 

In the light of day, more stories of the storm's devastation became apparent. The city of Vancouver, a major port, is cut off from the rest of the country - every major road and rail line has been damaged. By extension, our island is also cut off. Sections of roads fell into rivers, landslides covered other sections with debris. People were stranded between landslides and airlifted out via helicopter, abandoning their vehicles. Rivers overflowed and many, many people fled their homes and have no place to go. The effects are staggering. 

Ships waiting to unload cargo will have to remain at sea. Supply lines must be established, somehow. There are people missing and recovery operations are underway in hopes of finding them. 

The park where I took two of our grandchildren for a hot dog roast last Friday is under water and salmon swim in the very spot we picnicked. One hospital here began flooding and much of Monday was spent making contingency plans for moving patients, while simultaneously trying to restore services. In the end, no one needed to move. 

Today, we enjoyed a hearty dinner of Swedish Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes, Acorn Squash, and Braised Red Cabbage. As I served up Tim's plate, I thought about our own safety and abundance in contrast to the loss that so many people here are facing. My heart is heavy for them, and I will be looking for ways to help. 

Hug your loved ones. Give thanks for safety and abundance. Pray for wisdom for our leaders. 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

A November Sunday


"There are so many kinds of loveliness" Barney says to Valancy in L.M.Montgomery's The Blue Castle. The coloured leaves have almost all fallen in the woods, leaving a thousand shades of green and brown to see in plenteous evergreens, moss-covered branches, and forest paths. On cloudy mornings the forest is framed by pewter skies that often turn to dark grey before the rain begins.

We shared the care for two of our grandchildren this weekend with their other grandparents while their parents took a few days away together. In my previous post I mentioned taking the kids to Goldstream Park. Today, along with Tim, we went to Tod Inlet, in the morning, before the rainy afternoon.

A few golden leaves cling to branches, but they are becoming fewer and fewer. In the photo you can see the smokestack from the kiln producing tiles and pottery, run by the Butchart family. This park lies alongside the Butchart Gardens. The stack is crumbling bit by bit and I wonder how much longer it will stand. 

The inlet water appears green, reflecting dense coniferous growth. It's a quiet anchorage; and today we saw four boats at anchor. Gulls wheeled silently, white wings catching the light. The old pilings have been repurposed with birdhouses on each one to encourage purple martins to nest and flourish. The gulls use them as convenient perches, too. 

Eagle-eyed Tim saw this Varied Thrush in a tree, and I was able to capture a few photos of him. A lovely sight to see. 

Now in late afternoon, dark rain is falling, beating against the windows and rushing in the gutters. It's a Pineapple Express, bringing with it warm air from the Pacific. How glad I am for the coziness of home. I sit in a pool of light writing this post and am utterly content. 

The children came for breakfast this morning, and I made Creamy Eggs for them. It's a dish that I make the night before and then bake in the morning, and is easily adaptable for more people. Make-ahead breakfasts are my favourites. With it I served scones and fruit. 

Lovely landscapes, lovely grandchildren, a lovely home - these are the things that filled me this weekend. What kind of loveliness is in your world?

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Friday Five


West coast winter weather arrived early this year. Wave after wave of rain blows in from the Pacific, sometimes with wind, sometimes with a steady quiet patter and cool air blowing in from the open window where I sleep. How I love listening to the rain fall at night. 
These are good days for staying indoors, for quiet evenings by the fire. I rescued a handful of roses from the elements and they brighten up the coffee table with rosy pink and deep crimson. 

Youngest daughter Ashley, along with Iris and Cora, came for tea this morning. It was cozy to sit and visit. Cora is not yet walking but crawls really fast and heads for the fireplace every time. There was a lot of picking her up and trying to distract her. Peek-a-boo was a good game, also "why does Nana have a book on her head, and why isn't there a book on my head?" Iris is enthralled with puzzles and to watch her concentration is delightful. 
I made madeleines to enjoy with our tea. These have a hint of lemon in them, and ground almonds. (from Will Torrent's cookbook Patisserie at Home)

We invited Cristal and her family for a simple supper this evening. As I set the table I thought about my mom who made the quilted placemats, and about our trip to France in 2007 when I purchased the napkins in Avignon. I like surrounding myself with things that have personal meaning and are useful.

After a supper of Chicken Tortilla Soup, and madeleines and chocolate for dessert, we played the board game Carcassonne. There are so many great games these days, and our children trade around and have oodles of fun with them. 

In the evenings I've been paper piecing hexagons and stitching them together in simple ornaments for Christmas. I'll back them with felt and add a hanger. Fussy cutting the fabric scraps takes the most time, and the flower shapes come together quickly. 

We don't decorate the house for Christmas until Advent begins, and put up the real tree 10-14 days before the 25th so it doesn't shed entirely. In the meantime, I am thinking about projects and gifts and enjoy this time of preparation. 

November is a month that often slips under the radar after the beautiful autumn of October and the festivities of December. It takes intention to make the most of each day of this month and to enjoy it for what it is - a prelude to winter with its own quiet melody. 

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Weekend Festivities


Birthdays happen in clusters in our family. We celebrated the latest cluster together on Saturday night, and then the ladies enjoyed afternoon tea on Sunday afternoon. The White Heather Tea Room in Oak Bay is a lovely place to sit and sip and chat while the rain drips outside. 

Our waitress kindly took this photo of the four of us - my two daughters on the left, and my daughter-in-law seated next to me. Our teapots were replenished several times as we nibbled our way through scones, mini quiches, savoury sandwiches, and finally, the top tier of delicious sweets. 

It was a feast we couldn't finish, and so we each took home a small box of treats for husbands and children. I think I'm most fond of the sandwiches when I indulge in afternoon tea. What do you enjoy most?

On Saturday night our three children were all seated together at one point. I took advantage of the moment to snap a quick photo. From left to right, youngest daughter, eldest daughter, and middle son. Such lovely human beings. But I know I'm prejudiced! 

I'm just so thankful that we can all be together and enjoy each other's company. The cousins played well together, the meal was delicious (Ashley made moussaka, Travis a Greek salad, and Gerry a raspberry chocolate chip cake). Tim provided drinks and bread. 

Our clocks went back last night. After returning home from the tea party this afternoon Tim and I went for a walk. It felt much later, and darkness fell quickly. These are the nights to spend in pools of lamplight, reading or stitching. Tonight there will be some of that before we watch an episode of Foyle's War on the Knowledge Network, our public broadcasting station. 

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Slow Saturday


Storm after storm moves in from the Pacific and we are inundated with rain and wind. The sun shines for a brief while before the clouds scud across to cover it once again. These are good days for sewing projects accompanied by cups of tea. 

Our municipality is intent on increasing the tree canopy and offers to partner with residents. They provide and plant trees along the city easements, and the residents care for them. We chose this tree (Pacific Sunset Maple - acer truncatum) several years ago and it's growing nicely. Its leaves are slow to fall, but just now there is a lovely circle of red and gold under the tree. This photo is taken from ground level, but I admire the circle from an upstairs window. 

A few hardy blooms still brighten up corners of the garden, like these fuschia blossoms. In Spanish-speaking countries, they are often called "aretes" or "earrings", and they do resemble a dangling piece of jewellry. 

Yesterday I filled in for a teacher who had to fly out east for a family event. I'll be covering for her for three days next week, too. French and Drama. It's most enjoyable, particularly the French classes. Drama, with grade 8 students, is a bit of a challenge at the end of the day. 

Today I'm puttering around the house. I've started some Christmas projects and spend a bit of time every day stitching by hand or on the machine. 

Are you thinking about Christmas yet? Any projects on the go?

Friday, November 05, 2021

She Stitched, She Waited

At just 17 years of age, Dora knew her own mind. She would marry Charles Gilbert just as soon as he returned from Europe from that "war to end all wars."

While waiting for Charles' return, Dora stitched and painted. She threaded needles and with each stitch new dreams were born. She applied brown fabric paint, just a little, to the house, blushing a little as she imagined her life there with Charles. She envisioned herself standing at the door, welcoming him home from a day's work with a soft kiss. She brushed on green paint to represent grass, carefully feathering out the edges, and thought of the garden she would create together with Charles. She took special care with the flag, precisely applying paint and thread to honour both Canada and the Home Country, England. With joy she stitched the bright gold tassel on the flag pole, dreaming of the golden future ahead.

Great was her joy on the day of Charles' return in 1917. Such bliss to have his arms once more around her, to feel, under the rough wool army coat, his thin frame. Oh, she was shocked and horrified to learn that he had lost a leg in the fighting and for this reason had been sent home early. But what did a leg matter? She loved him even more and would marry him as soon as decently possible.

"No," said her father. "No daughter of mine will marry a cripple." 

Her brothers added their objections. No amount of pleading on Dora's part could sway them. No reassurances from Charles that he would be able to provide for Dora altered their opinion.

Desolate, Dora said farewell to Charles. They would not marry. She laid her stitchery, intended for a cushion, in the bottom of her trunk, covered in darkness as black as her future now seemed. It lay there for more than 70 years.

Ten years later, Dora married another man, Harold Orr, my husband's grandfather, also against the wishes of her family because he was a labourer and not a land owner. But then, at the age of 27, she was of legal age to do as she pleased. Dora showed the stitchery to her daughter-in-law, my mother-in-law, in 1987, just eleven months before Dora died. When Ruth asked her why she had never finished the cushion, Dora nodded towards the other room where her husband sat, and said, "I never made it for him." 

Ruth framed the piece and wrote the story on the back. I took the (poor) photo this summer, while visiting in Alberta. Ruth had the piece evaluated. The expert told her that many similar pieces were stitched and painted during the First World War, but that few survived the years as they had been used as originally intended, as cushion covers. 

edited to add in 2021 - This stitched piece now hangs in the guest room. I see it everyday from the hallway. I was able to do a little research on Charles and discovered that he became a baker and moved to Ontario, married and raised a family. I thought it appropriate to re-publish this post as Remembrance Day (November 11) approaches, and we remember those who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today. 

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

A Trip Downtown and Using Up Figs


Last Thursday evening we were talking with my parents about drivers' licences when I suddenly realized I had received a renewal notice in the mail, oh, about six weeks ago. It was still languishing on the shelf, and my licence was due to expire on Saturday. Oh dear. I quickly went on line and tried to book an appointment for Friday, to no avail. The earliest appointment I could get was for Monday, and it was at the downtown office, not the office within walking distance. 

So Monday morning, after seeing my parents drive off to the ferry, I walked to the bus stop and went downtown to renew my licence. I couldn't drive for it had expired. The renewal went off without a hitch, and I spent a little time wandering about the city streets. I know that ivy and Virginia Creeper are not good for buildings, but they certainly add beauty and character to them, especially with all the autumn colour. 

I spent some time in Munro's Books, an iconic Victoria bookshop. While there I struck up a conversation with another woman who said that she was from Ontario, was here on vacation, and had heard so much about the store that she just had to visit. 

It's beautifully organized, with so many lovely, lovely books that I wanted to gather up and bring home. I did purchase a couple for Christmas gifts.

I did not purchase this one, but the title struck me as very funny and reminded me of our experience arriving in London at a very late hour after a delayed flight from Paris. We took the train from Gatwick to Purley where our AirBnB was located 15 minutes from the station. We trundled our carryon luggage through the streets, well after midnight, and joked about being murdered in England, since we had watched so many British murder mysteries on television. Of course we arrived without incident, but this book tells me that others have the same thought!

Here is a little bit from the book. Very cheeky and fun.

"The Churchyard. Technically, you're supposed to be dead before you end up here, but villagers aren't strict about this."

My parents gave me a beautiful bouquet of roses and lilies for my birthday and the tight lily buds are open now. Mom said that there were lots of autumn coloured bouquets, but she knew I liked pink ones better, and she is so right. 

Our sunny weekend ended abruptly on Monday afternoon (AFTER my bus trip and walk home), with steady rain that is forecast to continue all week. Over the weekend I picked a few more ripe figs and this evening I made a Fig and Blue Cheese Flatbread to accompany our vegetable soup. The figs are not very sweet due to lack of heat and sun, and need a little added sweetness - this time from some Strawberry Thyme Preserves I had downstairs. It was all very delicious. 

An anonymous comment asked if I liked reading series. The answer is an emphatic yes. There's nothing I like better than finding a good author who has written a number of books featuring a likeable character. I'm hoping the Whitstable books will fit the bill. 

It's very cozy here this evening with the fire flickering, the pink roses on the coffee table, a cup of tea beside me, and wind gusting outside. 

Wishing you all November days of coziness. 

Living Alongside Medieval History

  Several people have asked why we chose Leiden for our visit to the Netherlands. We've found it's easy to stay in the large cities ...