Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Quick and Simple


I'm just popping in to say a quick hello before getting back to doing not much of anything. This week between the years is delightful for its lack of expectations. We had a lovely Christmas with family - full of delicious food, laughter, and happiness. 

Our 16 or so inches of snow melted in less than a week due to temperatures above the norm combined with rain and wind. For the past two days we've noticed a Varied Thrush hanging about, picking up food from under the bird feeder. This elusive bird lives in coniferous forests and comes more into the open after cold and snow. Such a handsome fellow! 

Wishing you all a wonderful week, and a very happy beginning to the new year - 2023! 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Ducks in a Row


Our world is still white, with rain to come tonight, turning all into a slushy mess. Walking by the pond these ducks in a row perched above the snow that was too deep for waddling. 

Here at home, I've got my ducks in a row - we are celebrating on the 24th this year as we alternate years with in-laws. Presents are wrapped, and all that remains is to do a little cleaning this morning, and some cooking this afternoon. 

We've had very cold temperatures for a couple of days, nothing like the cold further east, but highly unusual. The American Robins generally go south for the winter so I was surprised to see a fluffed-up female in a hawthorn tree. 

I finished up some last minute sewing - neck pillow for all the grands, made from the remnants of Christmas pajamas over the years. When I tried one out, I found it very comfortable and think that they would be good gifts for adults, as well. But not this year. 

I'm nibbling on a small bowl of snack mix as I write this post. It's not "nuts 'n bolts" because there are no bolts - pretzels. I find that I always pick out the pretzels first and eat them right away as I don't enjoy them. So I'm calling this mix "nuts 'n washers". It's packaged into jars to send home with everyone tomorrow. 

Merry Christmas blessings of love, joy, peace, and hope for all, and wishes for days of mingled quiet and delight, whether with family and friends, or alone. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

When Snow Falls


When snow falls in our coastal city, the corners of my mouth turn upwards. I can't help but smile, inside and out. We had a huge snowfall overnight, well over a foot, so I've been practically grinning! 

When snow falls, I don boots, toque, gloves, and down-filled parka to take a walk. The transformation from dull greens and browns to glittering whiteness never fails to astound me. 

When snow falls, contrast is highlighted and the world becomes a soft geometry of snow-capped seed heads, fence posts, and bird baths. 

When snow falls, little flowers like this feverfew blossom peek out with brave and pale colour.

When snow falls, I am happy to come indoors and enjoy a cup of tea and baking in front of a warm fire. And I know that here, snow will not last long, which is precisely why I love it so much. I grew up in the north where snow lasted long into March and April, and grew very, very weary of it. 

Today, however, I am reveling in the snow, drinking tea, looking out the window, puttering in the kitchen, and finishing up a little sewing. 

How do you spend a snow day, if you ever have them? 

PS I've posted the sugar cookie recipe on my other blog, here

Saturday, December 17, 2022

On a December Morning


Sunrise is around 8 am now. We were both awake early and decided, on a whim, to go to the beach when it was still pitch dark. Dressed in heavy coats, gloves, and toques, we stopped by Starbucks at 6:30 for two breakfast sandwiches, coffee for him and tea for me. 
We sat in the darkness of the car and ate breakfast while watching two beacon lights across the water blink alternately red and green. A tugboat chugged by, its bright headlight shining a path across the inky water. 

On this overcast morning sunrise was almost imperceptible, a mere gradual lightening of the sky in the east. Breakfast finished we went for a short walk. Gulls, and Bufflehead ducks were just awakening and beginning their mornings. Sparrows flitted from their nests across the path, still almost invisible in the half-light. 

From a distance we heard the faint honking of Canada geese. Then, there they were, high overhead, long trails of dark shapes swirling and shifting in loose formation, now over water, now over land.

How beautiful they were, greeting the morning together with us, wild geese against a grey December sky. 

And so the day began. All through the tidying and vacuuming, the folding of laundry and washing of dishes, the peace of that early morning has stayed in my mind, a few moments of delicious beauty in God's marvelous world. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

A Feast of Celebrations


Isn't that a unique cake? Our daughter-in-law created it to mark two birthdays, for our eldest granddaughter and our youngest. The cake inside is the same. Oh, how the children oohed and aahed at the lollipops on the pink side. Everyone wanted one and coincidently, there were five of them! I think it was planned. 

Here are the birthday girls, happy as can be. I love how the three oldest grands play with and care for the younger two. It warms the cockles of my heart. 

I've been folding paper stars, and taught Sadie, who stayed the night with us over the weekend, how to fold them. She learned fast and did a great job. 

These particular stars are 5 cm (2 inches) across and are now part of centerpieces at the church. Tomorrow is a luncheon for the seniors that I've been organizing. I'll be at the church early tomorrow getting the turkey rolls and stuffing into the ovens. Once the event is over, I will get cracking on more Christmas preparations around here. 

As you can see, there's no snow here, other than the crocheted snowflakes made by a good friend now passed on. I set up this wooden village with a tiny creche on the windowsill each Christmas and enjoy imagining the goings-on that might be happening. Perhaps it's a village similar to Louise Penny's Three Pines. 

Have you read Penny's books featuring the Quebecois detective Armand Gamache? I have the latest on my bookshelf, but am waiting until after Christmas to read it. There are four episodes of Three Pines, adapted from the books, on Amazon Prime Video, released in early December. Have you watched them? We did, and found them enjoyable, but not nearly as engaging as the books. 

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Enjoying the Days


Outside my window I see the lights of the houses below us and a dark sky above. Night falls earlier and earlier these days as the winter solstice approaches. I am thankful for light and warmth, and can't help but think of those who suffer in cold and darkness under the attacks of evil men. I pray for them and admire their courage.

Some of my favourite memories emerge along with the ornaments and decorations pulled from the Christmas boxes. Last night we put up our tree, and for the first time in many years, a child helped hang the sparkly stars and bells. Her parents were at a work party and she spent the night with us. She was surprised at how many of our ornaments were the same as the ones hanging on her tree. So I told her of my tradition of giving an ornament to my children each year, ornaments that they took with them into their grown-up homes. I often bought or made an ornament for ourselves, too.  Those ornaments bring joy to my heart and I remember where each one came from. 

I am smelling the pumpkin soup that I pulled from the freezer for an easy supper this evening. We had friends over for breakfast and cooking one big meal a day is enough for me!

Christmas preparations are coming along at a gentle pace. I feel peaceful and calm, most of the time, and am reveling in these days of quiet. I should clarify that not all moment are gentle and quiet - no indeed - life continues with its frustrations and unexpected happenings. 

Small, creative activities are bringing me a lot of pleasure. Often, those are the things that get scratched from my list because I think I should be doing something different, more useful perhaps. I baked sugar cookie stars a few weeks ago for the grands to decorate some of them. I was inspired by Shayda Campbell to try painting some simple designs with food colouring on them. What fun I had. I stuck with green and painted trees and leaves in various designs. Some are more successful than others. 

I am reading Bess Streeter Aldrich's Journey into Christmas on the recommendation of blogging friend Dewena. The book is a collection of short stories written before I was born - gentle tales of Christmas past. 

Baking is high on my list for this coming week - Christmas favourites from years ago like shortbread, rugelach, and peppermint bars. I have a few new recipes I'd like to try, as well. 

Wishing you a week filled with gentle moments in the midst of busy days, moments that carry you through when things don't go as planned. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

On a Grey December Afternoon


It's 2 pm and the fire is glowing, warming this dull drizzly dark day. Twinkle lights glow on the mantel and the piano. A cup of tea accompanies me and I just finished nibbling a square of dark chocolate and eating a sweet mandarin orange. 

I spent the morning finishing my Christmas shopping - it seems I do less each year. I spoke with my mother this morning and asked her what she would like for Christmas. "To be with my family," was her answer, and I echo that for myself. Christmas of 2020 was so hard because of not being together at all. 

The first greeting card arrived, one with a dark blue background filled with stars. I am reminded that I must get mine posted soon. There are far fewer cards than in past days, but I still enjoy sending them - little notes that mean "your friendship is important to me." 

I'm pulling the recipes for the baking I plan to do - recipes on cards that are stained and a wee bit worse for wear. Shall I make fewer cookies this year? They all manage to get eaten no matter how many I make, and it's good to share them with neighbours. 

After our busy weekend helping with a house move and entertaining the grandchildren here, our own house was in dire need of a thorough cleaning. That happened yesterday, and since everything was off the shelves for dusting, I decorated for Christmas. The tree will go up later as it's a real tree and I would like it to have needles on Christmas Day. 

The little girls did so well while their parents were moving. They spent the night here, and I gave them their Nana-made nightgowns. They remind me of the characters in Little Women as they trail around the house. Utterly adorable. 

The older grandchildren are getting to be such a great help with the younger two. Adria had the idea to make tissue paper parachutes with Duplo figures. Everyone chose an animal and she crafted parachutes with crochet thread, tape, and tissue paper. (One grandchild was missing due to illness). Then, up to the top of the stairs and the count - one, two, three - and everyone let their parachutes drift to the floor below. Up and down they went, good exercise for all.  


Wednesday, November 30, 2022

November Ends, December Begins


The excitement around our parts this week has been the weather. Snow fell thick and fast in some parts, but we saw just a wee bit that was gone by the late afternoon. Birds flew thick and fast to the feeder and the fig tree all morning looking for food. 

Here they are filling their faces - a male House Finch, a Dark-eyed Junco (also above), and behind, probably a sparrow. Cold weather is forecast for the rest of the week, with a possibility of more snow. Not a good weekend to be moving house, as our daughter and her husband will be doing.  

During these colder, darker days I've enjoyed reading Nigel Slater's The Christmas Chronicles, full of tasty tidbits of Christmas lore, comforting recipes, and thoughtful reflections on such topics as the scent of winter, about which he says, "But winter has its own smell: step outside on a frosty morning and you are smelling the cold.Two of our neighbours heat their homes with wood and I love seeing the neatly stacked chunks of wood, and smelling the wood smoke as it curls up from the chimneys. And often, in the evening, I will stand outside on the porch for just a few moments, breathing in the cold night air. 

Slater gives a recipe for a Fig and blue cheese salad full of crunchy apples and thinly sliced raw beets. I had no fresh figs, but added a few slivers of dried ones. In place of hazelnuts I used pecans. I love recipes that are adaptable. 

Cora turned two this week. When I gave her the bag with her birthday crown, she fished the crown out saying "My own crown" - she's been wearing her sister's from time to time. A Nana-made felt crown for a second birthday is another tradition. 

And so December begins. A busy month, if we let it be so. Slater says about Advent: "The point is sure more than a Christmas countdown, but a moment each day to stop and think of the more spiritual essence of the season. Maybe even to say a little prayer."

December can be such a busy time full of list-making and checking, of rushing from here to there with no time to enjoy the moments. At the end of the Christmas season, I find that what is remembered are the small moments: the mug of hot chocolate sipped while watching the snow fall, a particular piece of music, a game played with a child, the flicker of a candle on a grey morning, or a simple meal shared with friends. 

My intention this December is to slow down and create peaceful moments, and hopefully, wonderful memories to tuck away for the future. 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Advent Begins


The bright carpet of leaves under the acer tree is thick and colourful, even in the rain. It's thicker today as wind last night blew almost all of the leaves to the ground. Just a few stalwarts hang on to their branches. 

Each year before Christmas we plan an afternoon / evening of fun with our grandchildren. This year we had hoped to include the two youngest grands, but they were sniffling and coughing and everyone thought it best that they stayed home.
The three eldest cooked hot dogs over the fire outside in the light rain, then watched a Christmas movie while they ate, then decorated star-shaped cookie trees.

Before all that they created winter dioramas. Didn't they do a wonderful job? It was fun to observe their interactions and their unique ways of approaching the project. Tim and I prepared the frames (from shoe boxes) ahead of time, but they decided on the backgrounds, the lights, and all the decor items that we provided. 

Just before we drove them all home, they put on their new pajamas and had an impromptu dance in the living room. I'm a little sad about the poor quality of the photos due to inadequate lighting. 

And so it begins once again. Advent. The season of hope and longing. The season of preparation for the celebration of Christ's birth. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Birds in the Garden


This week we filled the bird feeder and were instantly rewarded by lots of visitors. The feeder is clearly visible from our breakfast table, but on weekdays we eat earlier than the birds. It's on weekends that we eat together with the varied crowd that gathers round the feeder. 

We notice which birds get along and share the feeder, like the Sparrow and Chestnut-Backed Chickadee above. Others scrap and fight and won't tolerate others on adjoining perches.

Dark-eyed juncos come in great numbers, flying in and landing on the feeder singly or in pairs, while others perch on the trellis or railing to wait their turn. Their soft colours are so pretty. 

The Sharp-shinned Hawk doesn't approach the feeder, but we know when he's around for all of the other birds disappear into the hedge in a flash. 

The Spotted Towhee is another favourite. He's hard to capture on the camera because he tends to feed on the ground under the feeder and isn't so visible from the house. Here he perches on a leafless lilac bush, surveying the garden. 

"Every day, birds that are identified as common are overlooked. However, as you immerse yourself in the world of birdwatching, you come to appreciate the beauty in the common species as well as the scarcer ones." 
Joe Harkness, Bird Therapy

I am not a bird-watcher, per se, but I do enjoy watching them and observing their habits. 

This week I've made Christmas cake - out of love, because I cannot abide the taste. My husband eats it, and some of our children. I've been sewing pajamas and nightgowns and have nearly finished. It's very cozy to sit at my machines and stitch away while the rain falls outside. Inside, the fire glows, cups of tea are sipped, and Advent preparations begin. 

I wish all my American readers a very Happy Thanksgiving. 

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Friday Favourites: Beautiful Walks


Uncommon weather continues. After our extended summer followed by a short blast of winter, calmness prevails. Little rain has meant plenty of outdoor excursions, alone and in company. On a misty morning I wandered around Beckwith Pond. It was a slow meander with plenty of stops along the way to admire the ducks. Lots of ducks. My little companion was enthralled with the ducks. 

Fog-shrouded foliage vibrant with colour lines the banks of the pond. When I saw the photo on my computer I wondered how the Eiffel Tower got into the photo. Do you see it? A closer look reveals the truth - a power line tower transformed by the mist.

On another afternoon this mellow pastoral scene reminded me of harvest season and the flat prairie of Canada's wheat fields. It's a gentle scene, and gentleness has been much on my mind recently. 

I'm craving gentle reads just now. Miss Read, Rosamunde Pilcher, Patrick Taylor. I'm dipping in and out of The Wind in the Willows, and Gladys Taber's Stillmeadow Calendar. I love reading books that go through the year and have occasionally thought that it would be fun to write such a book. In a way, blogging is similar, for here I comment on the weather and seasonal occupations. 

The "sunny stillness and the haze that dreams over the woods" is a line of Taber's that I found myself nodding along with after a walk in the forest. In the inlet at the end of this walk, hundreds of moon jellyfish pulsated in the clear green water, and white gulls swooped over the water before perching. 

In thinking of gentleness, I came across these words by Henri Nouwen - "A gentle person treads lightly, listens carefully, looks tenderly, and touches with reverence. Let's dress ourselves with gentleness. In our tough and often unbending world, our gentleness can be a vivid reminder of the presence of God among us." 

Here is my misty morning companion climbing the porch steps. She proudly wears the backpack her mother designed and stitched, complete with all-important pompoms. It's just her size. At almost two, independence is very important. "Do it myself" is a constant refrain. 

A sunny weekend is in the forecast, with rain beginning early next week. We do need the moisture, but now, these gentle sunny days are a balm. 

As my American readers prepare for Thanksgiving, I wish you all a wonderful time with family and friends. 

Sunday, November 13, 2022

November Quiet


Our unexpected snow is gone. Melted in a day. The cyclamen plant I received last weekend sits on the window ledge and stands in for soft white snowflakes. 

Sunday afternoon. Late. From my window I see pinky yellow skies on the distant horizon just above a hazy blue silhouette of the mountains across the strait. The air is still. We just returned from a walk on a new-to-us trail along a creek where poplar leaves glinted golden in the sunshine and brown grasses nodded gently. 

In one area we came across a considerable number of  Woolly Bear Caterpillars crossing the trail. The grandchild who was with us gathered up as many as she could to help them across the path so they would not be stepped upon. 

The tomatoes I harvested a couple of weeks ago are ripening nicely. This week I made Spicy Tomato Jam, a distant relative of ketchup in which ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and red pepper add lots of flavour. 

The result of some chopping and simmering is 7 jars of deliciousness to pair with cold meats, cheeses, and crackers. 
The recipe is from the cookbook Food in Jars, but it's also on line and can be found here

With darkness falling sooner, a flickering fire, glowing candles, and lights contribute to the sense of coziness and close comfort that we all crave at this time of year. Light. Warmth. I love this little breakfast nook where we eat when it's just the two of us. 

What adds to the sense of coziness for you? 

edited to add: Jan from Low Carb Diabetic mentioned that she had posted a comment but it didn't show up, so I investigated my spam folder and oh, my, there were lots of them there! I have now published them and will be checking it more regularly in future. 

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-...