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. 

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Surprise Snow!


On Monday morning fat flakes of snow drifted slowly downwards. Rain mixed with snow later on made for a chilly day. Last night the snow began in earnest with temperatures dropping down to just below zero (Celsius).  

This morning it looks like a formal occasion in the garden with everyone wearing top hats. It's a little odd in that many leaves are hanging onto their branches, and a lot of them have not yet turned colour.

An odd year all around. Record high temperatures long into October followed by a couple of weeks of autumn sun and rain, and now this! 

From my writing desk perch I see the dog next door romping through on the snow-covered grass. Dark-eyed Juncos flit in and out of the lilac tree branches, and a bright red-headed House Finch perches on the swaying cedar hedge. Are they as baffled as we are? 

A big pot of pumpkin soup is simmering on the stove on this chilly morning, and I'm on my second big mug of tea with honey. It's a good day for staying home and that's what I've got planned. Temperatures will rise today and all of the snow will disappear, but this early taste of winter has me wondering what the rest of the season will hold. 

Any weather anomalies out your way? 

Friday, November 04, 2022

On Friday: It's a Mixed Bag of Weather


My writing desk in a corner of the dining room. Photo taken a day before this writing.

A candle flickers on my writing desk this morning. Outside my window rain drips down. My view across the rooftops stops at a line of pointed fir trees not too far away, the distant Sooke Hills shrouded in soft mist. Below my window the gold of a fading lilac bush is dull, but the raspberry canes, still holding on to pale red leaves, glow through the droplets. 

My current writing project has me waking early some days, and as thoughts and words begin to flow, I pull myself from my warm bed, add a cozy robe, and go down in the darkness to this corner. A pot of tea is made, and a rice bag heated in the microwave, for it is indeed chilly. After an hour or so, I hear my husband stirring and I return upstairs to ready myself for the day.

Last night we had neighbours over for coffee and dessert. The guys drank coffee from mugs, we ladies enjoyed tea in china teacups. All of us ate a piece of Cream and Apple Pie, adapted from a recipe by Patricia Wells from her cookbook Bistro Cooking. As we stand on the porch to say our goodbyes, the cold rainy air washes over us and we are glad to return to the warmth of the fire. 

These rainy days are interspersed with occasional sunny ones, and how wonderful it is to see the blue through golden oak leaves. Soon they will all disappear and the spare architecture of branches will stand stark against the sky.

I've been eating vegetables as part of my breakfast. I actually enjoy vegetables more than fruit. Thinly sliced and oven-roasted sweet potatoes topped with a scrambled egg and accompanied with crunchy cucumbers make a satisfying breakfast. 

One more glimpse of gold and blue before I head out on this very different drizzly grey morning. There are groceries to purchase, and I plan to visit a local garden shop that is all set up for Christmas. I'm starting to get excited for the season, are you? 

Days at Home

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