Friday, March 17, 2023

Five on Friday - Rituals and Routines


I was given a beautiful vaseful of flowers at Tim's retirement party a couple of weeks ago. The flowers lasted and lasted, and this week I cut them down, threw out the dead ones, and created a smaller new bouquet. 
Beginning a new phase of life - retirement - has meant a shift in routine around here. It's subtle, but things are different. I've been thinking about the routines I've established for myself that are important to me. The non-negotiables, one might say. The things that ground me and help me structure my day.

#1. Exercise: Walking is my favourite form of exercise, along with a bit of stretching and strength building. I'm happy to walk by myself, or with someone else. Often, after dinner Tim and I would walk together through our neighbourhood. Now that he's home, but working on the renovation, he likes to relax in the evenings. I've taken to walking after lunch, or when the noise of saws and drills gets to be too much. How lovely it is to walk in these brighter days, although the wind is still sharp, and mornings chilly. 

#2. Cooking. My kitchen is still functional - to a degree. I'm shifting things around, and more cabinets will disappear this week. After breakfast, Tim covers the counters with drop cloths, we close what doors we can, and I stay out until noon when we find some leftovers or soup for lunch, then the kitchen shuts down again until 5 pm. That gives me time to wipe down the dusty counters and make dinner. 
This is a definite change in routine. I never realized how much time I spend in the kitchen. 

One evening this week I baked banana muffins and granola while preparing dinner. Although I prepared ahead and have meals in the freezer, some last minute things need to be done. I'm adjusting my cooking habits and so far it's going well. I have a few months of upset and things will be back to normal.

#3. Prayer. I hem my day in prayer, beginning by saying "Good morning, God" to myself as I come to wakefulness in my bed. Gratitude for food and health, lifting children and grandchildren to the Lord, amazement at the wonderful world we live in, and prayers for so much brokenness all around. Communication with God throughout the day. Then, at night, a prayer of thankfulness for the day. 

#4. Reading. A day without a few moments with a book just doesn't feel right. Sometimes I manage only a few pages, but I always, always read something. To me, reading is self-care. I lose myself in a story, or am challenged to think about a new concept, or find comfort in re-reading a favourite passage. My husband, to whom reading doesn't mean quite so much, once told me, "For you, reading is like breathing." I thought it a lovely thing for him to say.

The library above is one I visited in Austria, in 2019, at the St. Florian Monastery. My breath caught when I walked in - not visible in my photo are ethereal painted ceilings. It's the most beautiful library I've ever seen. Books are magical!

#5. Eating. We eat three meals each day, with our main meal in the evening. Tim snacks, I usually do not. I cook because I like to eat good food, and because I enjoy it. Meals often anchor a day. I recently enjoyed a lunch of salad greens, sliced pear, and blue cheese. Eating together or alone provides stopping points throughout the day, time to regroup and relax. 

Anne Lamott writes "Daily rituals, especially walks, even forced marches around the neighborhood, and schedules, whether work or meals with non-awful people, can be the knots you hold onto when you've run out of hope." 

What are your rituals and/or routines? Do find they provide structure to your day?

Friday, March 10, 2023

Friday Favourites


Close your eyes and do not peek
And I'll rub Spring across your cheek
Smooth as satin, soft and sleek,
Close your eyes and do not peek


While walking earlier this week, immense delight bubbled up when I saw the pussy willows along the path. Their soft catkins are impossible not to touch, and are sure harbingers of spring. The blue sky and sun had me soaking in the apricity, an old word meaning the warmth of the sun in winter. 

She turned to the sunlight 
and shook her yellow head.
And whispered to her neighbour, 
"Winter is dead."
A.A. Milne


Tightly closed daffodil buds have been popping up all over town, but the recent warmth has coaxed them out to see what's happening in the world. There are several clumps of the small tete-a-tete variety in my garden, and I wandered around looking at them this afternoon. 

Although much of the house is a mess just now and will be for several months due to the renovations happening, I'm still finding spots to bring in the outdoors - and what is more suitable just now than pussy willows and daffodils? 

Once upon a time there were four little rabbits and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter."
Beatrix Potter


I was at my youngest daughter's house last week and she said, "I have to show you something." We moved over to a window and there were four of the softest, sweetest little bunnies nibbling on the grass outside, two honey-coloured, one grey, and one a soft black. They hopped away as soon as I went outside and in subsequent visits I couldn't get close enough to take a photo. Little Cora really wants to hold one, but that's not going to happen! They are growing rapidly and I managed to capture a photo of two of them a couple of days ago. Soon they will become nuisances, but oh, how sweet they are for now. 

Warm thoughts.
Soup puts the heart at ease...
Auguste Escoffier


I love soup in any season and make a pot at least once a week. Lately, I've been making double batches and freezing them for the day when my kitchen is inaccessible. A recent soup was Broccoli Soup - filled with the goodness of vegetables and no milk or flour. I like to top it with crumbled blue cheese. 


I laughed at these dabbling ducks. They spent far more time with their tails in the air than their heads. They bobbed up for air, then down they went, tails wriggling as they found good things to eat in the shallow water of the bog. 

And one more delight - the song Blessings, by Hollow Coves. A good reminder to "hold onto the ones we love". Wishing you all a lovely weekend. 

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Finishing a Long-Term Project


Last week began with snow and this week with sunshine. All the snow melted quickly. This pot of crocus and pansies sits beside the front door and smiles at me when I come and go. 

The morning light is streaming into the living room with delightful warmth. I'm staying home from church this morning as I have a cold. Remember when we used to go out no matter what? If the pandemic was good for anything, it taught us (most of us) to think about the germs we might be spreading around to others. 

In my sewing room I have a glass bowl filled with spools of thread, including some old wooden spools. They are from Tim's grandmother. In the corner of the dining room of my grandparents' home sat a treadle sewing machine. It was used often with a family of 10 children - dresses, mending, and more. 

My mother sewed beautiful clothes for herself and for my sister and me. New dresses for Christmas and Easter every year. A pink velveteen dress with a wide lace collar, yellow linen with an embroidered daisy. Skirts and shorts and summer tops. She stopped sewing clothing a number of years ago and now sews beautiful, intricate quilts that are auctioned off or sold for charity. 

She taught me to sew - my first project was a pink floral A-line skirt when I was 11 or 12. Zipper, waistband, hand-stitched hem. Her standards were exacting. In Home Ec class I loved the sewing and the cooking equally, and learned much from Mrs. Kuhn. 

I sewed clothes for myself and later, for my children. There were always curtains to stitch up for the many houses we lived in. How I detest sewing curtains, but find myself still doing so on occasion. 

About 10 years ago, I started reading about couture methods to stitch a Chanel-style jacket. All fired up, I went out and bought some relatively inexpensive tweed to see if I could make such a jacket. I made some progress, but then began teaching again and the jacket was left to languish in the cupboard. Every so often I pulled it out and completed another step, but figuring out where I was and what to do next always took time. And there was always a critical voice in the back of my head telling me that it wouldn't turn out or wouldn't fit, so why bother finishing it. 

I put that critical voice on mute and decided that this was the year to finally finish the jacket. I had a deadline - Tim's retirement party. This is what I've been doing for the past two weeks. The recommended sewing time for this project is 70-80 hours. There is a LOT of hand-sewing, which I enjoy, but it does take time. Ashley, with her fashion degree, helped me with some of the later fittings. 

The party was Friday night - a really lovely event at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club where about 60 of Tim's colleagues joined in to wish Tim well in this new phase of life. Our children and their spouses were also invited and I was pleased that they could hear the accolades. And I wore my new jacket. It's oh, so comfortable to wear. I was glad that my cold showed up on Saturday and not on Friday, for I would have hated to miss the party. 

Trims are an important part of a Chanel-style jacket and I dithered back and forth about what to do, finally settling on stitching the fabric selvedge as a base, and topping it with the lace daisies from my wedding veil, for a bit of whimsy. I cut those off when Ashley married, and I beaded the veil with gold and silver glass beads. I want to change the jacket buttons, but it was perfectly wearable as is. Every one of those little daisies has six tiny hand stitches. 

I look forward to wearing my jacket open over jeans for a casual look, or buttoned up for more formal occasions. I learned so much while sewing this jacket and hope to make another one soon, and it won't take 10 years to complete! 

There's been little else accomplished these past two weeks, and I am looking forward to doing something else for a bit. 

Do you sew? Do you enjoy it? Clothes, quilts, curtains, or...?

Sunday, February 26, 2023

A Potpourri of This and That


One day last week I took two little girls to the Salish Sea Centre. It's a wonderful little museum featuring the life under the surface of the water surrounding our island. The Moon Jellyfish (aurelia aurita) looked ghostly in a dark tank illuminated with purple lights. It was mesmerizing to watch the jellyfish contract and expand to move throughout the tank. 

Although I've seen lots of Moon Jellyfish out in the wild, I've never seen a Sea Nettle Jellyfish (chrysaora fuscescens) and was struck by their weird beauty and vibrant colour. They can grow to a meter in diameter. How gracefully they move through the water. 

Closer to home House Finches, Chestnut-Backed Chickadees, and Black-eyed Juncos flew around the feeder this morning. Snow fell overnight, just an inch or so here, enough to make the world look bright and beautiful this morning under a blue sky. It was a gorgeous day for a walk. 

I recently finished reading The Personal Librarian, the story of a black woman who was forced to pass as white in order to achieve her dreams. Belle da Costa was librarian to the wealthy American, J.P. Morgan, and although the story is written as fiction, it is heavily based on history. It had me thinking about civil rights, and about being authentic, and about racial tensions. 

The house is quiet this Sunday evening with both of us engrossed in reading or writing. A fire glows gently, warming the room in a cozy atmosphere. I think about the week ahead - I'd like to bake bread, finish a sewing project, and do some writing. These brighter days, although cold, fill me with energy. What are your plans for the week?

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Friday Favourites


Five moments from this week. I'm writing in the quiet of evening with the fire glowing. Tim and I spent some time this evening going over the plans for the kitchen renovation. We're to the point of ordering cabinets and choosing countertops and sinks. So many decisions. 

1. In my garden the hellebores are just beginning to open. How pretty these are against the browns of late winter garden beds. Lilac buds are beginning to swell and daffodil leaves poke sharp and green from the soil with the promise of later flowers.

2. Inside I got up close and personal with a chrysanthemum. Isn't the symmetry amazing? 

3. These two make me laugh. They sit on the couch cuddling their little stuffies in blankets and pretend-watch television. Iris makes up the story and Cora listens. Then Cora decides to turn off the imaginary television and oh, what a reaction she gets! Iris gets so upset that Cora keeps turning off the imaginary television. It's hilarious. Suggesting they each have a television does not work. 

4. Little animals are ever so happy in the zoo. I savour these times with the little ones and enjoy spending time with them. These young years fly by quickly. Once they attend school there is not as much freedom to spend the day with Nana. 

5. Weather is still chilly around here, in spite of the brightening days. We might even get some more snow. A bowl of Turkey Chili is warming and delicious, and so easy to make. 

Have a wonderful weekend filled with activities you enjoy and people you love. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

14 Lovely and Loving Moments


In the firm belief that love should be celebrated every day, I'm posting 14 loving moments from my year. This is by no means exhaustive.

Bop, aka Grandpa pondering over plans for woodworking projects with two grands. 

My Valentine and I kayaking last summer. 

Evening light beside a peaceful lake. 

Sweet peas and peaches on the kitchen windowsill.

Baking with two little loves.

All the grands lying on the floor with their new pillows at Christmas.

Silly fun with my Valentine. On our anniversary while traveling up north last summer - we found two brand new party hats on a bench at a park and put them on for a selfie! 

A pink rose in the garden we visited on our wedding day, and again this summer after 45 years.

Adventuring together. He's the best!

Roses from the garden.

Two grands celebrating close-together birthdays.

Bright hope of spring.

This past week we celebrated our grandson's birthday - those tacos took the place of cake - waffle bases, crumbled brownies (meat), coloured coconut (lettuce), maraschino cherries (tomatoes), orange Twizzlers (cheese). Delicious, but disconcerting to eat.

The three older grands at the table with the birthday boy in the center. 

As Anne of Green Gables once said, "Dear old world, you are very lovely and I am glad to be alive in you."

Wishing you all a Happy Valentine's Day. Treat yourself with love, treat others with love, treat God's world with love. 

Friday, February 10, 2023

Five Thoughts on Friday


Hooray for the first crocus bloom! Such a tiny thing to bring joy. Pansies, too, but they bloom most of the year, especially in a pot on the porch. Outside my window this February morning the sun has just been blotted out by a cloud travelling by. How much greyer everything looks, but since the clouds are travelling fast, perhaps the sun will peek out again soon. 

And snowdrops! More to delight. The way their petals lift to open reminds me of nun's wimples or old-fashioned nurse headdresses with white wings flying. From my spot here in the house, the nodding snowdrops are white spots of brightness in my mostly brown garden. 

Inside, the cactus is blooming. I can't call it a Christmas cactus although I thought that's what it was, for it blooms a little in November, and again in February. 

These days I've been going through closets and cupboards, cleaning out things I don't need anymore. Binders and files full of teaching materials - gone - and I feel lighter for it. Cracked dishes - binned. A stack of books to take to the thrift shop is growing. Ceiling fans dusted. (I couldn't believe the amount of dust on the blades.) Linens re-folded and neatly stacked. Cupboards emptied and wiped out. As Marie Kondo says, "The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment." 

The other day I was cooking Chicken Florentine and the kitchen was redolent with garlic. Iris walked in with her mother and sister, and Iris' first words were "What is that amazing smell?" At 3 1/2 she loves to cook and isn't afraid to try new foods.

My daughters and I watched the most recent Downton Abbey movie last weekend. (We would have included daughter-in-law, but she was out of town and has seen it.) We all agreed that spending some time in warm sunny Provence while wearing beautiful clothing sounded most attractive. 
I did an old-fashioned thing and actually purchased a DVD. I've been collecting a few favourites from the thrift store, too. I don't like all this digital stuff - movies disappear from streaming services and are difficult to find sometimes. My family calls me old-fashioned. Do you still watch DVDs or do you stream everything?

"Give yourself a gift: the present moment." Marcus Aurelius

There has been some sunshine lately and I caught it illuminating the fireplace mantel, so I stood and watched for a moment before picking up the camera. The days brighten a little more each day and I can feel my energy levels rising, too. 

Two little girls are coming to stay for two nights and days this weekend while their parents are busy. I made some tiny blueberry muffins, lots of fruit, and a wedge of Brie cheese for Iris (she's quite an adventurous eater), and have games and crafts organized to keep everyone busy. There won't be time for anything but child care, I'm thinking. At least until the evening when I can collapse and do nothing.

What are your weekend plans?

Saturday, February 04, 2023

Around Here at the Beginning of February


Daffodils are the cheeriest spring flowers. A bunch of tightly furled buds came home with me from the grocery store this week and are gradually opening inside the house. Outside, daffodils have a month or so to go before blooming. 

I finished the Japanese Rice Bag I showed you last week. It was a quick project and fun to do with the simple hand stitches as embellishment. 
I confess that I have an enormous stash of fabric, mostly linen and cotton, that I am determined to use. There are plans for a couple of summer dresses and tops, as well as a quilt or two. A small project like the bag is good motivation for me to get going on larger projects. 

I'm using the bag to store a crochet project I pick up from time to time - making flower coasters from cotton yarn. It's another "use it up" project. 

There are rice bags and there are rice bags. The one on the left is a Japanese Rice Bag, also known as Kinchaku, and was used as a lunch bag or small purse. This bag has a 7-inch square base. When the bags are made with a larger, 10-inch or more base, they are known as Komebukuro and were originally intended to carry rice to the temple for offerings. Check out the link for a lovely quiet video watching a master create a kinchaku bag.

The pink rice bag is a rectangle of fleece filled with rice or flax seeds and can be heated in the microwave to provide soothing relief to sore muscles. I have several of these and often sit with one at my back.

Two kinds of rice bags - both useful in different ways.

We've been noticing several Northern Flickers around our garden lately and I happened to catch one on my camera this morning. They are common to most of North America and I find their gentle colouring very beautiful. Do you see Northern Flickers in your garden?

Making decisions about our upcoming house renovation is taking a lot of time. There are just so many choices! We've been working on lighting recently and made the order for the kitchen today. For the month of February, the store had a promotion of "spin the wheel" and see how much of a discount you could get, from 5 - 40%. So I spun the wheel and was shocked to see it stop at 40%! That was a huge bonus, and the store owner said I was the only one thus far to have the wheel stop there. 

What colour is your kitchen? Or what colour would your ideal kitchen be? We are adding some colour into cabinets and I'm getting excited to begin the project. But first, someone has to retire from his day job! Just a few more weeks. 

Have a lovely Sunday and a great week ahead. I hope the lengthening days brighten your heart as much as they do mine. 

Five on Friday - Rituals and Routines

  I was given a beautiful vaseful of flowers at Tim's retirement party a couple of weeks ago. The flowers lasted and lasted, and this we...